NFL Owners Decide To Punt In Meeting On Political Protests

No policy changes were announced after a four-hour discussion with the players union.

NFL owners met Tuesday with leaders from the NFL Players Association to hash out the issue of athletes protesting racial inequality by taking a knee during the national anthem.

If the early reports are any indication, neither party took a strong stand for or against the protests.

The four-hour discussion concluded instead with what seems like an extension of the status quo, according to Sports Illustrated senior NFL reporter Albert Breer. For now, players will continue to make their own decisions.

The NFL and NFLPA released a vague joint statement afterward in which they praised the meeting as a productive discussion about how to “utilize our platform to promote equality and effectuate positive change.”

Other than reaffirming the football community’s “tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military,” however, the statement contained no hints as to whether the NFL might implement a league-wide rule forcing players to stand during the anthem.

Notably, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones sat out the meeting. Jones has been accused of trying to have it both ways after he knelt in solidarity with his players at a game in September and then weeks later threatened to bench any player who protested.

The silent demonstrations, sparked by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the 2016 season, were cast in a particularly divisive tone last month, when President Donald Trump called on the NFL to fire the “son of a bitch” players who knelt.

More than 200 NFL players took a knee that weekend in response to Trump’s comments. Some of them were joined by team owners and executives.

Kaepernick originally sat during the anthem, but switched to kneeling as a sign of respect for veterans after a discussion with former Army Green Beret Nate Boyer.

Principled and peaceful protest — which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago — should not be punished. Kaepernick lawyer Mark Geragos

Now a free agent, Kaepernick has not been signed by another team, which many see as the league punishing him for being politically outspoken. He has filed a grievance against the NFL, accusing team owners of violating the league’s collective bargaining agreement. 

“If the NFL is to remain a meritocracy,” Kaepernick lawyer Mark Geragos said in a statement Sunday, “then principled and peaceful protest — which the owners themselves made great theater imitating weeks ago — should not be punished and athletes should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government.”