"The players were very clear about how they felt about these issues and how deeply they felt about these issues in our communities", said Mr. Goodell.
"I told [commissioner] Roger Goodell this, and I said it to all the owners this afternoon-I thought this was one of the most open and productive meetings I've been in, maybe ever, in any business I've been involved with". "We feel a real responsibility to our country, to our communities, so we're working through ways to really have long lasting, real change".
Goodell made the comments in a press conference Wednesday, one day after an annual meeting in which owners and players met at National Football League headquarters in New York City.
Reminded that U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted again Wednesday about the demonstrations during the anthem, Goodell said there was nothing unpatriotic about his league.
"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", the letter stated. We want to continue to work to make that zero.
"The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our national anthem".
The protests had mostly fizzled out until last month, when Trump reignited the issue by decrying any player who kneeled during the anthem as a "son of a bitch" who should be fired. "They are not doing this to be disrespectful to the flag". Among the topics discussed was enhancing the players' platforms for speaking out on social issues. "We need to be above petty attacks from anybody, because racial and socioeconomic inequality have existed in this country for too long". "We spent today talking about the issues that players have been trying to bring attention to - issues to make our communities better. that was the entire focus of today".
Since the reignited controversy, Goodell and owners have met with players, as they did yesterday, in a continued attempt to address the players' concerns. "That's where our hope is, and we hope over time, few players will kneel". "This is an issue that can unite people across America", the governor wrote.
The CBA prohibits owners from conspiring against a player and blackballing them from employment, but it also gives owners great protection.
Since the meeting, the NFL's commissioner has been asked repeatedly about the anthem.
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