NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced today that he personally believes that players should stand for the national anthem, but the league will not make it a rule requiring it. From NFL.com:

“I think our clubs all see this the same way — we want our players to stand, we’re going to encourage them to stand and we’re going to continue to work on these issues in the community,” Goodell told reporters after meeting with team owners at the Fall League Meeting in New York. “We’ll address issues — I can’t deal with hypotheticals right now, we’ll deal with those issues if they come up — but for right now, that’s our focus.”

Said Goodell: “The fact is that we have about half a dozen players that are protesting. We hope and continue to work to try to put that at zero — that’s what we’d like to do.”

We all know by now that the NFL has been entangled in an anthem fiasco ever since former quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during a preseason game in August 2016 to protest racial injustice in the country. It took off and other players joined him.

Then President Donald Trump decided to wade into the discussion, which has enflamed the whole situation. Viewership has gone down (my parents refuse to watch a game) while stadiums aren’t always full. It has even leaked over to other sports with the Golden State Warriors refusing to visit the White House to celebrate their NBA championship to people bashing the Pittsburgh Penguins for attending the White House to celebrate their Stanley Cup victory.

Goodell sent the owners a memo last week. From Fox News:

“The current dispute over the national anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country,” he wrote last week. “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.”

He’s been meeting with NFL owners this week in New York City for fall meetings. From NFL.com:

On Tuesday, a collection of 13 players, union leaders, 11 team owners and NFL executives met to discuss social issues and plans “to promote equality and effectuate positive change.” He said discussions about the national anthem played a big role in this week’s meetings.

He explained during the press conference what took place in that meeting:

“One other issue we spent a great deal of time talking about this morning was how much we believe [that] everyone should stand for the national anthem,” Goodell said. “It’s also an important part of our game, that we all take great pride in. And it’s also for us to honor our flag and our country, and we think our fans expect us to do that. And so that was something we continued to focus on this morning. But really talking a lot about with the opportunity that exists with our players to try to go and really make a difference in our communities in a positive way.”

“They’re very clear about it. And they’re actually incredibly knowledgeable, articulate and they spent the time going into the communities to talk about that,” Goodell said. “… They’re talking about criminal justice reform, whether it’s bail reform. Whether it’s talking about mandatory sentencing. They’re talking about changes that, I think, will make our communities better — that there’s bipartisan support for and that need focus. They’re talking about what we can do to support them to effectuate that legislative change, and that’s, again, very, very positive. They’re talking about equality issues, making sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to give people an opportunity, whether it’s an education or economic and what we can do to try to effectuate that. And we believe, with the players, that we can help them, we can support them. And those are our issues, national issues, American issues that are all important.”

Goodell also acknowledged that the feelings of the fanbase remain important to the players and league:

“I understand where our fans feel about this issue — and we feel the same way. About the importance of our flag, about the importance of patriotism,” Goodell said. “And I believe our players feel that same way. They will state to you, and they have stated to everyone publicly, they are not doing this in any way to be disrespectful to the flag, but they also understand how it’s being interpreted, and we’re dealing with those underlying issues.”

It’ll be interesting to see what the players do this weekend. I still watch football even though my Chicago Bears suck. Honestly, it’s becoming unwatchable, not only because they suck, but also because of all the penalties.

But remember that the NFL is a private business and therefore the 1st Amendment doesn’t apply to them. If the NFL eventually wants to implement a rule that forces players to stand for the anthem then so be it. The union will probably raise hell, but they can do that. Individual teams can make rules, too, and who knows? Maybe it will end up in future contracts.