NFL Pushes Back Against Trump's Latest Claim About Anthem Protests

The NFL is distancing itself from President Trump's rhetoric after he tweeted on Wednesday that NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell would now be forcing players to stand for the national anthem.

"It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem-RESPECT OUR COUNTRY," Trump wrote on Twitter.

The NFL disputed that characterization as well as reports along those same lines.

"Commentary [Wednesday] morning about the Commissioner’s position on the Anthem is not accurate. As we said yesterday, there will be a discussion of these issues at the owners meeting next week,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email to The Washington Post.

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“The NFL is doing the hard work of trying to move from protest to progress, working to bring people together. Commissioner Goodell spent yesterday with Miami Dolphins players, law enforcement and community leaders witnessing first-hand the outstanding work our players and clubs are doing to strengthen their communities. Players from around the league will be in New York next week to meet with owners to continue our work together,” he added.

In a letter to teams on Tuesday, Goddell strongly suggested that owners at next week's meeting find a way to compromise social activism with a show of patriotism — although he did not say that teams or the NFL were going to force players to stand for the anthem.

“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem,” Goodell wrote to NFL club presidents and chief executives. “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.”

Goddell wrote that the league would hatch a plan to be “an in-season platform to promote the work of players” on social issues, “and that will help to promote positive change in our country.”

Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King writes that he thinks the league will wind up devoting a week or two of season play to promoting and funding social change.

“The endgame? My gut feeling is the league will start by offering to devote a week or weeks — the way the NFL does with cancer causes (‘Crucial Catch’) or the military (‘Salute to Service’) — to fund and partner with players to highlight and sponsor work on civil rights causes in NFL communities,” he wrote.

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Last month, three active players and another who is retired asked that the league dedicate the month of November to activism awareness. It is unclear how the league will move forward, especially after the story was sidetracked when Vice President Mike Pence left the Indianapolis Colts game when 49ers players protested during the anthem.

As another week of football approaches, players will likely continue to demonstrate, whether by taking a knee or linking arms in unity, in order to demonstrate that their acts are aimed toward inequality, not at the military or the American flag.

“I think we’ve seen even over the last year that you can take a player out of the league, you can threaten to do whatever you want to do, that’s not going to deter players from doing what’s right, or doing what they believe is right,” Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins told ESPN on Tuesday.

“You might be able to change the manner in which that looks but I don’t see players stopping their pursuit for justice or equality,” he added.