- NFL players have reportedly said owners and management have told them to stand for the national anthem. Some owners are reportedly concerned with how national anthem protests may affect business. Players say many of them would like to protest but don’t have the job security to do so.
In the weeks since President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners “fire” any “son of a b—-” who kneels during the national anthem, several reports have indicated that the league and team owners are concerned with the optics of national anthem protests.
Now, according to The Root’s Michael Harriot, several NFL players have said that they are under pressure from owners and management to stop any protests.
According to Harriot, some teams may be coming down on players in a more straight-forward fashion. One NFL linebacker told The Root: “They didn’t say what would happen. But they let us know that we are expected to stand during the anthem.”
Another player told The Root that his coach’s stance recently changed..
“My coach said his father served in Desert Storm,” the player said. “He said he fought for our right to take a knee. Then, all of a sudden, he’s asking us not to do it. I know management must have talked to him. He looked like he was ashamed to even say that to us.”
According to Harriot, one player said that his team’s coach told players they were allowed to make one gesture after Trump’s comments and that would be it. As the player said, anyone protesting after that would be acting individually, and many teams stress that there “ain’t no room for individuals here.”
ESPN’s Don Van Natta and Seth Wickersham reported on October 1 that the league and team owners held meetings about how to stop protests in the wake of league-wide player demonstrations following Trump’s comments. According to the report, some owners worried about how the protests might affect league business. Many felt that owners and players had to get on the same page with regard to the protests.
Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly said the league can’t just tell players to stop. One owner, according to ESPN, said, “We’ll get our guys in line.”
According to Van Natta and Wickersham, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a Trump donor, said during a meeting that kneeling had to end, but that owners also had to find a sincere way to listen to players’ concerns.
On Sunday, following a loss to the Green Bay Packers, Jones said that any Cowboys player who disrespected the flag would not play.
“If there’s anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play,” Jones said.
Some players are in a perilous position, however. As one player told The Root, “Out of all the players you see taking a knee, there are probably three times as many who want to do it but are scared.” The player said that players who aren’t first- or second-stringers don’t have the job security to act against ownership’s wishes.
While many teams have resumed standing for the anthem and making gestures like placing their hands on their shoulders or linking arms, kneeling hasn’t stopped altogether. Several San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts played knelt during the anthem on Sunday, prompting Vice President Mike Pence, who was attending the game, to leave early. In a statement, Pence said he would not “dignify” an event that disrespected the military or US flag.
Kneeling during the anthem was initially started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sought to draw attention to social injustice and police brutality.
According to ESPN, some players felt that maybe it was time to move on from kneeling, wondering if the message had become diluted. ESPN reported that players and owners did not come to an agreement or make much progress on a solution to how to get players’ message across while appeasing owners.
From the sounds of it, some owners may be moving in another direction.