Fans react to Vice President Mike Pence for leaving the Colts game early. Clark Wade, Jim Ayello/IndyStar
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a memo Tuesday afternoon to chief executives and club presidents regarding recent national anthem protests by NFL players. In the memo, he said “We believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem.”
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“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.”
Goodell said the league has heard from several players and NFLPA leadership about the issue.
“We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us,” the statement read in part. “We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”
Goodell said the issue will be discussed at a meeting next week.
“The NFL is at its best when we ourselves are unified. In that spirit, let’s resolve that next week we will meet this challenge in a unified and positive way.”
Currently, there is no rule in the publicly-available NFL rulebook regarding the national anthem. There is a guidebook which suggests players stand. NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said that the policy has been in place for several years, pre-dating protests that began during the 2016 season.
“It’s policy, it’s not a rule. I think where people are getting confused is, rules, that’s like holding or defensive pass interference, that’s a rule. This is policy,” McCarthy told the IndyStar last month.
Donald Trump has consistently tweeted about NFL players kneeling for the national anthem. His most recent tweet regarding the topic praised Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who said he will bench players who do not stand for the anthem.
During Sunday’s Colts game, Vice President Mike Pence left the stadium after several San Francisco players knelt during the anthem.
Follow sports producer Matthew VanTryon on Twitter @MVanTryon.