NFL owners, commissioner Roger Goodell, players meet in New York City to discuss kneeling during national anthem

 In Sports
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Commissioner Roger Goodell, several prominent NFL owners and a handful of players were among the 20 to 30 people at a meeting Tuesday night in New York to discuss players kneeling during the national anthem and other relevant subjects facing the league.

The meeting focused on what the league was going to do moving forward and how to approach player protests, according to New York Giants linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Casillas, who attended the gathering in Manhattan.

It came after a weekend in which players knelt or locked arms — some didn’t even come out of the locker room — during the anthem. The strong response was in large part a response to President Donald Trump’s recent comments about the league and players who didn’t stand for the anthem.

“You got to see opinions from the owners and from the players as well,” Casillas said. “Stuff like that is very good, very proactive. Thank Trump for saying what he said because without him saying that, (1) the whole league wouldn’t have been so collectively together, (2) we would’ve never had a meeting.”

Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem last season, when he was the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, as a way to protest social injustice. The number of players who kneel during the anthem has steadily grown this season.

Among the owners who attended Tuesday night’s meeting were John Mara of the Giants, New England’s Robert Kraft, Pittsburgh’s Art Rooney II, Jacksonville’s Shad Khan, Miami’s Stephen Ross, Philadelphia’s Jeffrey Lurie and Cleveland’s Jimmy and Dee Haslam. Players included Casillas; Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater of New England; and Cleveland’s Jason McCourty and Christian Kirksey, among others.

“It was a very unique opportunity, obviously for the players. But I think [for] both sides. It rarely ever happens,” Devin McCourty said. “To me, it was great to take away perspective to see both sides. I thought it was cool just to be open — they were very open, we were very open with the feelings and how everything kind of went down, and how we felt as players.

“I think it was just a great situation and opportunity that we could all sit there and just talk, and throw everything out there. I think both sides got to walk away with an understanding of how each other felt.”

McCourty said it wasn’t a negotiation, but “a big dialogue,” which was “what a lot of guys have been trying to start.”

Casillas considered the two-hour session productive. He said there were no concrete decisions made. Instead, he said, it was an opportunity to exchange opinions in an open-table format.

“I know the owners for sure don’t want us kneeling. … It’s what the message is getting across. People have been totally misconstruing the kneeling thing, from the beginning. … It’s never been said anything about kneeling down is disrespecting the flag.””

Jonathan Casillas

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the gathering was one of many conversations this week within the NFL.

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