During a 20-minute press conference held to debrief what progress came of the meeting he hosted between NFL players and owners this week, league commissioner Roger Goodell shared that no changes will be made to the game’s operations manual. Goodell explained that his office will continue to urge players to recognize the patriotic culture that has long been associated with the sport in hopes that each and everyone on the sidelines will stand during the National Anthem. “We think our fans expect us to do that,” Goodell stated. But at no point did football’s top executive present the expectation as a requirement, thus leaving the question as to whether owners will be able to punish players for not standing in accordance, unanswered.
“I can’t deal with hypotheticals right now. We’ll deal with those issues if they come up,” Goodell told a reporter who inquired into how the league is prepared to respond if an owner like the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones does follow through on his threat to penalize players who kneel. Goodell stressed that the focus of the Winter meetings was to provide a space for the players and owners to have an exchange on what their positions are, and how they can better understand one support one another, rather than counter one another on the field.
Ultimately, Goodell says that his office is working on ways in which the NFL can amplify their causes without drawing attention to themselves during the Star Spangle Banner. By the same token, he expressed faith and trust in the players to take a different course, while professing his intention to engage the number of players still protesting in order to “work to put that at zero.”