All eyes have been on NFL players who are protesting police brutality and racial inequality during the national anthem. On Tuesday, NFL owners decided against a mandate that would have required players to stand for the anthem going forward. There will be no rule change, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
There apparently wasn’t even a vote that took place among owners:
John Mara says no vote of the owners was taken on anthem-related rules.
— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) October 18, 2017
On Tuesday, commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters at a press conference, “We believe everyone should stand for the national anthem, it’s an important part of our game.” He also stressed that he understood the concerns of the players, and that he felt the league could help them combat the societal issues.
Colin Kaepernick was the first player to protest during the national anthem. He was seen sitting during the anthem during Week 3 of the 2016 preseason. He later shifted to kneeling during the anthem and continued to do so throughout last season. Now, Kaepernick is out of the league while teams with needs at the quarterback position continue to pass him over because he dared to kneel.
Many other players joined the movement, and protests continued into this season. President Donald Trump said at a rally in September that any player who is “disrespecting the flag” with a protest during the national anthem is a “son of a bitch” and should be fired, but players weren’t deterred from their protests.
On Monday, the Congressional Black Caucus wrote a letter to the NFL in support of players who protest during the national anthem. The letter invoked Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail to white clergymen who were opposed to racial injustice but disagreed with the method of civil rights protests in 1963.
Dr. King hoped in his letter that those he was writing to would see the “justice of our cause,” and I hope the same for you and others. I understand your discomfort with kneeling during the National Anthem, but please understand our pain―pain that we as African Americans have carried since we were first brought to this country on slave ships.
Now these protests can continue with no official repercussions for players.
What did the NFL say? The league and the NFLPA released a joint statement after the owners’ meetings with players.
Joint NFL-NFLPA statement: pic.twitter.com/v4Swz4WhvW
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 17, 2017
Last Tuesday, ESPN leaked a letter the league sent to teams confirming that owners would discuss a possible rule change requiring players to stand for the national anthem at their meeting this week.
The league and the NFLPA issued a joint statement on Wednesday about the plan for the meeting.
Joint NFL-NFLPA statement pic.twitter.com/Elgkx3Gvmy
— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) October 11, 2017
Trump tweeted support for Goodell “demanding” players stand for the anthem, and Goodell was quick to refute the president’s claims.
“What we’ve had is unprecedented dialogue over the last year with our players, our owners, with community leaders and law enforcement,” Goodell told NFL Network’s Nate Burleson. “What we plan to do is have a very in-depth discussion with the players and owners next week to make sure we truly understand the issues and also understand the approach we want to take together with the players to address these issues in our communities.”
On Monday, the NFL officially endorsed the Grassley-Durbin criminal reform bill, which seeks to “recalibrate prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, target violent and career criminals, and save taxpayer dollars.” It aligns with Kaepernick’s commitment to helping fund reform in the criminal justice arena, which is one of many efforts he supports.
What are players saying? Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews was asked via Twitter the week before the mandate was established what his reaction would be if the rule change had. Matthews tweeted that he would be “done playing football.” The tweet was quickly deleted. He later apologized for his comment.
Eric Reid said after the meetings that he didn’t think a rule change was forthcoming. Reid, who started kneeling alongside his former teammate Kaepernick last year, said he will continue to protest.
Reid explained: "We started this to raise awareness and effectuate change. We're on the path to making the change we think we can make…"
— Jenny Vrentas (@JennyVrentas) October 17, 2017
Reid added, "we just aren't there yet."
— Jenny Vrentas (@JennyVrentas) October 17, 2017
Willie Colon said on SNY New York that he had spoken to several players who attended, and the meetings didn’t go as well as other reports suggested.
Big Willie. Putting the situation — and Goodell — on blast.
— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) October 17, 2017
What are owners saying? Jerry Jones said the week before the owners’ meetings that he would require all of his players to stand for the national anthem or they would not play. Jones met with his players after that statement, but players were quiet about what Jones had said to the team.
49ers CEO Jed York, on the other hand, expressed his support for players protesting during the national anthem before the rule change was handed down. That didn’t change after Tuesday’s meetings.
More from #49ers owner Jed York: “This is one of the proudest days” he’s had an an owner. Credits Colin Kaepernick for getting it started.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 17, 2017
Doesn’t Donald Trump have more pressing concerns? Trump is fixated on the NFL protests when relations with North Korea are deteriorating fast, and there’s a full-blown humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. The answer is, yes, he should.
This is an issue that gets Trump’s supporters all riled up, primarily because people deliberately overlook the fact that these protests were never intended to attack the flag, first responders, or the American military. Rather, players just wanted to stand up for people suffering oppression and living under the burden of racial inequality.
As is the president’s tradition, he has doubled down, attacking NFL players and the league relentlessly via Twitter over the issue of anthem protests. This is certainly not the outcome Trump wanted, and we’ll almost certainly see more angry tweets from him.
What does this mean for NFL players? Some owners are still against the idea of players protesting during the national anthem, and teams may have individual guidelines for it. However, players won’t face any official discipline from the NFL if they choose to protest.