UPDATE: Tuesday afternoon – Roger Goodell has commented on the lack of pressure on players regarding the national anthem.

Facing a firestorm of vitriol from across the political spectrum, NFL owners and players met yesterday to discuss social issues — but the two sides punted when it came to confronting the flashpoint national anthem protest that has divided the nation.

The league’s policy regarding whether or not players must stand during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” did not come up during the meeting in New York. That policy states that players “should” stand for the anthem but does not force those who have been kneeling in protest to rise.

There has been a push from those who find the protest disrespectful to change the policy from “should” to “must.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated that the league did not try to ask players to commit to standing during the pregame tradition.

“We did not ask for that,” Goodell said. “We spent today talking about the issues that players have been trying to bring attention to — issues to make our communities better. I think we all agree there’s nothing more important than trying to give back to our communities and make them better.”

NFL Statement on Fall Meeting

“Today’s discussion with our players was very productive and very important. It reflected our commitment to work together with our players on the issues of social justice.

Our players are men of great character, they have a very deep understanding and tremendous knowledge of the issues that are going on in all of our communities. Their commitment to addressing these issues is really admirable and something that our owners looked at and said, ‘we want to help support you and those are issues that affect us. They are our issues also, and we’d like to do it together.’

The players were very clear about how they felt about these issues and how deeply they felt about these issues in our communities.

Finally, the players and the owners came to an agreement that these aren’t really issues that are players issues or owner issues or community issues – but they are issues that affect all of us in our communities. And with our commitment, they wanted to work together to try and address these issues.

We do plan to meet again, and we do plan to meet again soon. We have not set a date for that, but I expect it to be in the next two weeks.”

The commissioner also touched on whether or not the NFL will require players to stand for the national anthem.

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“We did not ask for that. We spent today talking about the issues that players have been trying to bring attention to – issues to make our communities better. I think we all agree there’s nothing more important than trying to give back to our communities and make them better. That was the entire focus of today.”

In a memo sent to teams last week, Goodell said the NFL prefers that its players stand. In a statement released yesterday, he said players and owners plan to meet within the next two weeks but did not have a specific date.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who was among the 11 owners in the closed meeting, said the conversation was constructive and added that the NFL’s policy on the national anthem “did not come up.”

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, a leading spokesman among the players, said discussion was about “everything to do with the state of the NFL now, obviously anthem protests, activism that players have been doing, and how we can move this forward to really amplify players’ voices and amplify these issues and make some long sustainable changes.”

Debate over players kneeling during the national anthem has surrounded the NFL since last year, but it hit a fever pitch last month when President Trump said league owners should “fire” players who participate.

Trump, who spoke last night at the conservative Heritage Foundation’s President’s Club Meeting, did not reference the NFL or the protests.

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the trend last year when he kneeled during the anthem in protest of racial injustice in America. Kaepernick is a free agent and last week filed a grievance against the league, claiming NFL-wide collusion is the reason he doesn’t have a job.

The one-time starter was not invited to yesterday’s meeting by NFL brass, according to his attorney.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was confronted by two people in the lobby of the Manhattan hotel where the owners were meeting. Jones stopped to listen but said nothing, and the protesters were peacefully led away.

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(c)2017 the Boston Herald

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