The NFL is moving toward making it policy for all players to stand for the National Anthem.
ESPN obtained a copy of a letter to club chief executives and presidents in which Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote, in part: “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.”
That division is showing up in the form of backlash from paying customers and sponsors. League owners and other high-ranking team officials will meet next week to discuss what can be done to win back those who have felt animosity toward the NFL after a recent spike in players who have chosen to kneel for the anthem.
“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem,” Goodell said in the letter. “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.”
Goodell also mentioned in the letter that he and team representatives also will discuss a plan that would give players an outlet, other than kneeling during the anthem, to do something to address social injustice.
“(It) 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,” Goodell said. “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.”