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#pounditSunday, February 5, 2023

Roger Goodell to NFL teams: We need to move past national anthem controversy

Roger Goodell

Roger Goodell sent a letter to all 32 NFL teams on Tuesday, and the commissioner is urging owners and executives to do what they can to help move past the controversy surrounding national anthem protests.

While Goodell didn’t mention anything about a rule requiring players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” he did say that it is the league’s belief that all players, coaches, and team staff should do so. He also described anthem protests as a “barrier” standing in the way of making real progress with issues of social injustice.

“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,” the letter said, via ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “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.”

Goodell said the league is exploring other ways in which it can promote the work players are doing in the community.

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

It’s no secret that the NFL is concerned about losing fans over anthem protests. We have heard reports about team owners worrying that fans could bail on football, which would lead to lower ratings and less revenue. Over the weekend, Jerry Jones made some of the strongest comments from an owner yet about players kneeling during the anthem.

While Goodell’s motivation is likely the same as that of most NFL team owners (money), you could easily argue that the message of anthem protests has been lost. The protests themselves are supposed to be the vehicle, not the message.


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