By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – The NFL said on Friday it has no plans to mandate players stand for the U.S. national anthem, but will rather present a possible solution on how to end the controversial protests when it meets with team owners next week.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, along with the head of the NFL Players Association, will meet with the owners from Oct. 17-18 in New York where the issue of player protests during the U.S. national anthem is expected to command much attention.
“(Goodell) has a plan that he is going to present to owners about how to use our platform to both raise awareness and make progress on issues of social justice and equality in this country,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said on a conference call.
“What we don’t have is a proposal that changes our policy, we don’t have something that mandates anything. That’s clear. If that was the case I doubt the head of the NFLPA would have put a joint statement out with us.”
The statement released on Wednesday said Goodell invited NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith to the meetings and that the agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized.
The protests, in a league where African-Americans make up the majority of players, have continued through the current season, with some players kneeling and others standing arm-in-arm in solidarity.
The gesture is intended to call attention to what protesting players see as a pattern of racism in the treatment of African-Americans by U.S. police.
The issue has been exacerbated after U.S. President Donald Trump said last month that players who did not stand during the anthem should be fired.
Lockhart said the discussions will focus on how to use the broad platforms of the NFL, players and clubs to try and make progress on issues of equality, social justice and criminal justice reform.
“These are issues that are important to our clubs, issues that are important to our players, issues that are important to the communities in which we play,” said Lockhart.
“That’s what we are discussing. So for everyone who has speculated over the last few days that somehow there is a proposal that is set for a vote on Tuesday or Wednesday you are speculating.
“Those who are reporting it as fact are reporting it incorrectly.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge)