NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to team owners Tuesday afternoon expressing his opinion that everyone should stand for the National Anthem.
“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. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.”
Goodell said that he also cares deeply about the players and their concerns about “critical social issues,” but that anthem controversy is serving as “a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues.”
Goodell mentioned a plan to be revealed at a meeting next week that will include “an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues,” but gave little detail on the platform or other measures in a plan that was developed by league officials.
The commissioner never said that he expected players to stand or that he would strengthen an already existing rule that says they should stand. He only said that he feels that “everyone should stand for the National Anthem.”
It is unclear what actions will be taken to ensure that players honor the flag, the nation, and the anthem. While many owners have expressed a desire to penalize players for failing to stand, the NFL Players Association has come out backing the protesting players.
The protests have caused a deep drop in favorability among core NFL fans and pushed tickets sales and network ratings to new lows.
Full Text of Roger Goodell’s Letter to NFL Owners on National Anthem Protests
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.