NEW YORK – They sat across a conference-room table from one another Tuesday – 11 NFL owners and 13 players – and they talked. For more than three hours, they talked.
The players, most but not all African-American, talked about the social issues that have led to the national-anthem protests that have Donald Trump and a number of Americans all hot and bothered.
They spoke to the owners about the racial injustice in their communities and how they want to use their platform as players in the most popular sport in America to change things, and invited the owners to, in the words of Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, “come alongside us collectively, and collaboratively work together to create change, some real change.’’
The owners, who want this anthem controversy to go away so they can get back to printing money, told them they would.
“Today’s discussion with our players was very productive and very important,’’ NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “It reflected our commitment to work together with our players on issues of social justice.”
Goodell said the league’s players are “men of great character’’ who have a “deep understanding and tremendous knowledge of the issues that are going on in all of our communities.
“And their commitment to addressing these issues is really admirable, and something that our owners looked at and said, ‘We want to help support you. Those are issues that affect us as well. They’re our issues also. We’d like to do it together.’ ”
Jenkins, one of the league’s most respected voices, and Eagles teammate Chris Long were among the 13 players who attended the meeting at the league offices. Their boss, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was one of the 11 owners in the room.
Jenkins said he felt the meeting went “really well.” He suggested it was a good first step.
“Conversations will continue,” he said. “The dialogue will continue. This was a first-time meeting, so I don’t think we could come up with a whole plan and solution in two hours.
“But we are happy that these things are happening. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to really put a good plan together.”
What is not known is whether players kneeling during the anthem will continue. Both Jenkins and Goodell, who attended the meeting along with NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, said that particular issue wasn’t discussed.
“None of that was talked about today,” Jenkins said.
Unlike the NBA, the NFL doesn’t make it mandatory for players to stand during the national anthem. The league’s game-day operations manual says they “should’’ stand, but doesn’t say they must.
“We didn’t ask for that [to be changed],” Goodell said.
“The players were very clear about how they felt about these issues, and how deeply they felt about these issues in our communities,’’ Goodell said.
“The players and the owners came to an agreement that these aren’t really issues that are player issues or owner issues. They are issues that affect all of us in our communities. We made a commitment to try to work together to address these issues.”
Goodell said there will be more meetings with the players in the coming weeks and months.
“With this stage that we have as NFL players, and as a league in general, we feel a real responsibility to our country, to our communities,” Jenkins said. “So we’re working through ways to really have long-lasting, real change.
“The issues that we’re fighting against, they’ve been here longer than us and we don’t expect them to change overnight. We’ll continue to work in collaboration [with the owners] and have [more] conversations to see if we can make some change.”
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