ST. LOUIS (KMOX/AP) – NFL owners will meet next week to consider changes to a game manual that says players “should” stand during the national anthem, a guideline that the league has left to the discretion of players who kneeled in larger numbers after criticism from President Donald Trump.
Commissioner Roger Goodell told club executives Tuesday in a memo obtained by The Associated Press that the anthem issue is dividing the league from its fans. He said the NFL needs “to move past this controversy.”
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said the policy will be “front and center on the agenda” when owners meet in New York next Tuesday and Wednesday.
In Goodell’s letter he said the league has “worked to develop a plan” that would try to appease both the players who believe in the protest and the fans who are opposed to it.
The movement started by former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season had mostly subsided when Trump told a rally in Alabama last month that owners should get rid of players who kneel during the anthem.
Here is the full letter Goodell sent to all 32 NFL teams, as posted on NFL reporter Adam Schefter’s Facebook page:
We live in a country that can feel very divided. Sports, and especially the NFL, brings people together and lets them set aside those divisions, at least for a few hours. The current dispute over the National Anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country.
I’m very proud of our 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. At our September committee meetings, we heard directly from several players about why these issues are so important to them and how we can support their work. And last week, we met with the leadership of the NFLPA and more players to advance the dialogue.
Like many of our fans, 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.
Building on many discussions with clubs and players, we have worked to develop a plan that we will review with you at next week’s League meeting. This would include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues, and that will help to promote positive change in our country. We want to ensure that any work at the League level is consistent with the work that each club is doing in its own community, and that we dedicate a platform that can enable these initiatives to succeed. Additionally, we will continue the unprecedented dialogue with our players.
I expect and look forward to a full and open discussion of these issues when we meet next week in New York. Everyone involved in the game needs to come together on a path forward to continue to be a force for good within our communities, protect the game, and preserve our relationship with fans throughout the country. The NFL is at its best when we ourselves are unified. In that spirit, let’s resolve that next week we will meet this challenge in a unified and positive way.
SCHUYLER DIXON AP Pro Football Writer contributed to this report
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)