by Jack Crowe
NEW YORK CITY – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said “everyone should stand” for the national anthem in a letter sent to all 32 team owners Tuesday.
“The current dispute over the National Anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country,” Goodell wrote. “Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem.”
“We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players,” the letter reads.
ESPN obtained following letter that Roger Goodell sent to NFL teams within past 30 minutes:
To: Chief Executives/ Club Presidents
From: Commissioner Goodell
Date: October 10, 2017
Re: Fall Meeting/National Anthem
We live in a country that can feel very divided. Sports, and especially the NFL, brings people together and lets them set aside those divisions, at least for a few hours. The current dispute over the National Anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country.
I’m very proud of our players and owners who have done the hard work over the past year to listen, understand and attempt to address the underlying issues within their communities. At our September committee meetings, we heard directly from several players about why these issues are so important to them and how we can support their work. And last week, we met with the leadership of the NFLPA and more players to advance the dialogue.
Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.
Building on many discussions with clubs and players, we have worked to develop a plan that we will review with you at next week’s League meeting. This would include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues, and that will help to promote positive change in our country. We want to ensure that any work at the League level is consistent with the work that each club is doing in its own community, and that we dedicate a platform that can enable these initiatives to succeed. Additionally, we will continue the unprecedented dialogue with our players.
I expect and look forward to a full and open discussion of these issues when we meet next week in New York. Everyone involved in the game needs to come together on a path forward to continue to be a force for good within our communities, protect the game, and preserve our relationship with fans throughout the country. The NFL is at its best when we ourselves are unified. In that spirit, let’s resolve that next week we will meet this challenge in a unified and positive way.
An Oct. 1 poll lends credence to Goodell’s statement that NFL fans expect players to honor the flag. The poll found that the league’s favorable’s dropped from from 57 percent to 44 percent between the end of August and the end of September. The NFL’s unfavorable rating went from 23 percent to 40 percent among top professional sports and college sports during the same period.
Goodell’s letter comes hours after reports emerged that NFL team owners are considering instituting a rule change that would require players to stand during the national anthem.
The owners will convene a meeting next week to discuss the possibility of implementing the rule change, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters on a Tuesday conference call. The recently disclosed meeting is the latest development in a weeks long controversy spurred by President Donald Trump’s attacks on NFL players and calls for a league boycott.
Owners are reportedly entertaining a unilateral rule change that would empower the league to impose some currently undetermined penalty on players who refuse to stand for the anthem. Representatives from the players’ union, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), have strongly supported what they believe to be the players’ decision to protest the anthem, arguing the players are constitutionally entitled to kneel.
The current NFL policy states that players “should” stand for the national anthem, but does not explicitly prohibit kneeling. Lockhart suggested that the owners will be receptive to input form players but said the rule change would not require player approval.
News of the meeting comes hours after Trump questioned why the league receives tax breaks on Twitter, citing the “disrespect” he believes its players express toward the country in his call for a change to the tax code.
Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017
Lockhart said during the conference call that the NFL does not receive any special tax breaks and pointed out that the league surrendered its tax exempt status in 2015.