NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said all NFL players “should” stand for the national anthem before games, but stopped short of implementing a rule change to discipline players who choose to protest.
“We believe our players should stand for the national anthem. That’s an important part of our game and our moments, and we believe in that,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday, according to Yahoo Sports. “I think we also have to keep focus on this: We have about six or seven players involved in this protest at this point.”
Goodell said it “wasn’t necessary” for team owners to discipline players who use the national anthem to protest racial inequality. He went on to say that the league is attempting to deal with the “complex” underlying issues fueling the protest.
“We’re not afraid of the tough conversations,” he said. “That’s what we are having with our players. That’s what we had [Tuesday] to understand one another. Out of those discussions, they understand the owners and the NFL really care about their issues. That’s what dialogue is all about. To get that understanding between different parties.”
President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticized players who sit or kneel during the national anthem, took another shot at the NFL on Wednesday morning.
“The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem,” he tweeted. “Total disrespect for our great country!”
Asked about the president’s tweet, Goodell said the league is looking to “stay out of politics.”
“We’re not looking to get into politics,” he said. “What we’re looking to do is continue to get people focused on football.”