NFL Backtracks Earlier Statement, Won’t Make Players Stand for Anthem

October 18, 2017 Updated: October 18, 2017

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with NFL officials, Players Associations representatives, team owners, and some protesting players, and decided the league will continue to let national anthem protests go unpunished.

This is a reversal of earlier news that the NFL will start to punish players who don’t stand. At the owners meeting in New York City, the league head said he wants to find ways to address player concerns, but did not mention stopping the protests, Reuters reported.

“We spent today talking about the issues that our players have been trying to bring attention to. About issues in our communities to make our communities better,” Goodell said.

There has been some dispute about whether or not the NFL already had policies in place that prohibit not standing during the national anthem. The policies have never been closely scrutinized before because the NFL has never experienced the wave of protests it has been experiencing since Colin Kaepernick took a knee during his pregame national anthem protests last season.

Goodell seems to not want to ban protests altogether, but may be trying to direct the movement in another direction. He said that at the meeting they discussed other ways the players could address the issues that concern them out in the larger world. The protests are hurting the NFL and teams financially, as less fans attend games and ratings drop, perhaps in response to the protests.

Conspicuously absent from the meeting was Colin Kaepernick. A few days earlier, news came out that Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL for colluding to not hire him, according to Bleacher Report. Kaepernick has been out of a job since he opted to leave the 49ers at the end of last season. He expected to find a new team but has remained jobless throughout 2017.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver reminded teams of the NBA’s rule about standing during the anthem. He is likely trying to avoid the backlash the NFL has faced from people, including many fans, who are turning their back on the league. As the NBA season is just getting started, players are locking arms but no one has gotten on a knee. According to a USA Today article, NBA players probably won’t totally embrace the anthem protests since they are too busy making positive changes in their communities through the NBA’s many service initiatives.

Some NBA players have voiced a sense of confusion about what the national anthem protests are supposed to mean or if their aim is clear.

Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes, who is collaborating with the Dallas police chief and the Police Athletic League to host a basketball camp for youth, praised the NBA’s approach.

“[R]egardless of whether people take a knee in the NBA or not, more players will continue to use their voice to continue to do projects and continue to give back to communities, continue to help bring reconciliation and healing to this problem that we have. I think that’s the most important thing that can happen,” Barnes said, via USA Today.