The Associated Press
NFL owners will meet next week to consider changes to a game manual that says players “should” stand during the national anthem, a guideline the league has left to the discretion of players who kneeled in large numbers after criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump.
Commissioner Roger Goodell told club executives Tuesday, in a memo obtained by The Associated Press, that the anthem issue is dividing the league from its fans.
He said the NFL needs “to move past this controversy.”
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said the guidance will be “front and centre on the agenda” when owners meet in New York next Tuesday and Wednesday.
The movement started by former San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season over his view of police mistreatment of black males mostly had subsided when Trump told a rally in Alabama last month that owners should get rid of players who kneel during the anthem.
In his memo, Goodell reiterated the league’s belief that everyone should stand for the anthem and outlined plans to highlight efforts of players trying to bring attention to the social issues behind the game-day protests.
Goodell said those plans would be presented to owners next week.
“The controversy over the anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues,” Goodell wrote.
“We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”
The game manual says that during the anthem, “players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking.”
The manual also says anyone not on the field by the start of the anthem can be fined or suspended.
Lockhart said the league so far has chosen not to discipline any players.
He sidestepped a question of whether “should” would be changed to “must” next week.
“I think there will be a discussion about the entire issue,” Lockhart said.
“I’m not going to predict what might happen.”