Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL strongly prefers players stand for the national anthem, but the league will not mandate it.
“We want players to stand,” Goodell said Wednesday at a press conference wrapping up the league’s two-day fall meetings in New York. “That’s an important part of our policy. It’s also an important part of our game, that we all take great pride in. And it’s also important for us to honor our flag, and to our country, and we think our fans expect us to do that.”
Goodell met with 12 active NFL players and multiple owners Tuesday to discuss the well-publicized and oft-debated issue of protesting during the national anthem. Goodell said the NFL would like to get the number of players protesting during the anthem at “zero” but expects some players to continue exercising their right.
Goodell on Wednesday refused to answer what he labeled a “hypothetical” question about his reaction to any NFL owner mandating players stand during the national anthem. He added that owners felt the discussion “wasn’t necessary.”
However, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said players and coaches on his team will stand. Jones said he would bench any player in violation of his order.
New York Giants co-owner John Mara said that Jones had plenty to say Wednesday when owners met on the issue. The owners did not take a vote on any rule change regarding the anthem, and Goodell said the focus was on the anthem topic being a “long-term issue.”
Mara said owners expect criticism to continue from President Donald Trump, who called for a league mandate forcing players to stand pregame during the anthem. Trump kept the heat on Wednesday.
The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
Goodell said he has not talked to Trump, who was many financial supporters in the NFL, including Jones.