NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has taken a stand on the issue of players taking a knee during the national anthem — and he’s siding with President Trump and owners opposing the protests.
Goodell, hours after another football-focused tweetstorm from Trump, issued a letter to all 32 team executives on Tuesday calling on the league to “move past this controversy.”
He added that, “like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand” during the singing of the “Star-spangled Banner.”
Goodell’s memo, along with recent comments from some team owners, makes it appear that the league is ready to heed calls from Trump to punish protesting players.
Team owners will have a chance to weigh in on the issue during upcoming meetings, to be held at the Conrad Hotel in Battery Park.
The owners will review the league’s current policy, which says players “should” stand. It is not mandatory.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said the guidance will be “front and center on the agenda when owners meet next Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Trump continued his weeks-long gripe against the protesting players on Twitter Tuesday, questioning tax breaks the league receives while, “disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country.”
The President also attacked ESPN’s Jemele Hill, accusing the recently suspended “Sportscenter” anchor of causing the network’s ratings to have “tanked.”
“With Jemele Hill at the mike (sic), it is no wonder ESPN ratings have “tanked,” in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!” Trump wrote.
Hill was benched Monday after encouraging those who disagree with NFL owners directing players to stand to boycott advertisers.
“If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don’t place the burden squarely on the players,” Hill tweeted Sunday.
Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, threatened earlier in the day to sit players who kneel.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross agreed, saying, “I think it is incumbent upon the players today, because of how the public is looking at it, to stand and salute the flag.”
ESPN suspended Hill, saying her series of tweets about boycotting advertisers was her “second violation of our social media guidelines.”
Hill’s two-week timeout comes less than a month after she sparked a firestorm of criticism by calling Trump a “white supremacist.”
Her comments drew condemnation from the White House and led to calls for her ouster.
Hill said she regretted having “painted ESPN in an unfair light.”
The network said at the time that Hill “recognizes her actions were inappropriate.”
On Tuesday, Hill’s colleagues rushed to her defense after the President singled her out.
“Stop attacking our colleague Jemele Hill, any other journalists or media entities. We are doing our work,” Josina Anderson responded to Trump’s tweet.
On Tuesday, Hill thanked her ESPN co-host Michael Smith for standing by her.
“I love you @michaelsmith for being my biggest supporter, a great friend, terrific husband & father. I truly don’t deserve you. See you soon,” she wrote.
Trump and others in his administration have gone out of their way over the past two weeks to keep the NFL protests a topic of contention.
Vice-President Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game Sunday after several San Francisco 49ers player took a knee, claiming that he “will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the silent protest last year, sitting and kneeling during the anthem to raise awareness of racial injustice and police brutality against black people.
During a rally in Alabama last month, Trump spoke out against protesting players — insinuating that their silent efforts were offensive to veterans.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—h off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
The outburst led to more players protesting during pre-game ceremonies in the ensuing weeks.
“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players,” Goodell said at the time.
The NFL manual currently says that, “players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking.”
League spokesman Joe Lockhart would not say whether “should” will be changed to “must” at the meetings next week.