NEW YORK — The world’s most powerful man once again couldn’t resist putting his itchy Twitter thumb right in the eye of the NFL and its collective ownership group.
This uncomfortable business of some players taking a knee or sitting or remaining in the locker room during the pregame national anthem keeps coming up like a late-night pizza with extra anchovies.
Early Wednesday, President Trump tweeted that NFL owners were showing “total disrespect for our great country” by not requiring players to stand during the anthem. The reaction from the league was predictable and tinged with a bit of sarcasm.
“I’m shocked,” Giants owner John Mara said through a half smile. “We all want everybody to stand. As far as I’m concerned, I want the players to stand because they want to stand as opposed to me having to tell them they have to stand.”
The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
The NFL’s game operations manual states that players “should” stand for the anthem, but it does not require it. Mara said that changing the policy was discussed but that there would be no change — despite what the president and his followers insist.
“We’re all aware that’s going to continue,” Mara said, “but we can’t allow ourselves to get baited by that. We’re going to do what we think is right.”
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was not available after the second day of owners meetings in Manhattan’s financial district, where security was extremely tight, led by bomb-sniffing dogs Parnell and Skippy.
Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked a couple of times about the president’s jab and deflected each question. He didn’t even mention the president by name.
“We are focusing on what we can do and we should be doing as the NFL,” Goodell said.
While there was a lot of nebulous talk about all of the fascinating conversations over the last two days, there was no real concrete plan on what the NFL would do if teams disciplined players for not standing for the anthem.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that any of his players would be benched if they did not stand.
“I can’t deal with hypotheticals right now,” the commissioner said. “We will deal with those issues if they come up.”