A decision by the National Football League not to punish players that refuse to stand for the national anthem ahead of games is getting blasted by President Donald Trump.
The league held meetings on Tuesday to deal with the swirling controversy with both players and owners represented. Those talks ended with the league saying no punishment would be meted out against players kneeling or sitting during the anthem, a move that drew the ire of President Trump.
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
Trump of course has been an outspoken critic of players that kneel, going so far as to say he's love to see some of them fired for disrespecting the flag.
As The New York Times reports, the league not only decided not to punish kneeling players but to actually get behind some of their causes.
The N.F.L. for now will continue to let players kneel or sit during the national anthem without a penalty, capitulating to demands by the athletes for free expression but potentially further alienating fans who object to the protests and feel they are disrespectful to the flag and the military.
But, after a meeting Tuesday with union representatives and players, the league did promise to help support some of the causes targeted by the protesting players, including reform of the criminal justice system.
The issue has been dividing NFL fans since the practice of "taking a knee" was started last season by Colin Kaepernick. The league has been trying to find away to work with players to bring the protests to a halt but so far, that has not happened.
The meeting on Tuesday included the N.F.L.’s commissioner, Roger Goodell; the director of the players’ union, DeMaurice F. Smith; and 11 owners, including Robert K. Kraft of the New England Patriots and Arthur M. Blank of the Atlanta Falcons. They met for almost four hours with a dozen players, including Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, Eric Reid of the 49ers and Kenny Stills of the Dolphins, all of whom have protested during the anthem.
The current NFL rule book states only that players "should" stand for the anthem, some wanted that rule change made at this meeting but according to The Times, that request was not explicitly made to the players during the meeting.