In an effort to end the ongoing debate around standing or kneeling during the national anthem prior to NFL games, Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote a letter to team executives saying the league needs “to move past this controversy” and that a plan for doing so would be discussed at a league meeting next week.
Goodell offered no details on the plan, but said “like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand” during the anthem, and that he wanted the matter resolved “together with our players.”
Goodell made only a vague reference to why the athletes are kneeling ― in protest of police brutality, particularly against unarmed people of color. Instead, he praised 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” ― without specifying what he later termed “critical social issues.”
He asserted that the kneeling “is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country.”
“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem,” he said. “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.”
The letter was sent to all 32 teams.
Protests during the national anthem began last year when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled while it played. Although Kaepernick, now a free agent, remains unsigned by any other team, many more players have taken a knee in solidarity ― an act that has led to harsh backlash by some, including…