The NFL has developed a plan to “move past” its ongoing debate about player protests during the national anthem and could enact it next week, commissioner Roger Goodell wrote Tuesday in a letter to all 32 teams.
Goodell made clear in the letter, obtained by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, that he wants players to stand during the anthem. He did not provide specifics on how he intends to ensure it, but wrote that it would “include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues.”
The issue will be discussed, and likely acted upon, during the NFL’s regularly-scheduled fall meetings on Oct. 17-18.
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In the letter, Goodell said he wanted to end the controversy by agreeing on a uniform approach for all teams.
“Like many of our fans,” Goodell wrote, “we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem. 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 NFL’s current anthem policy states that players “should” stand for the anthem, but it stops short of requiring it.
The proposed new policy is the result of “many of discussions with clubs and players,” Goodell added.
President Donald Trump has called on NFL owners since last month to fire players who do not stand for the anthem, saying their protest “disrespects the flag” and the country. The issue intensified last weekend, when Vice President Mike Pence walked out of the 49ers-Colts game because more than 20 players from the 49ers kneeled during the anthem.
Players involved in the protest, which began in 2016 with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have said they are protesting police brutality and racism — not the flag itself. But many NFL owners have grown concerned about the appearance of unpatriotic acts and, on Sunday, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he would bench any player who kneeled.