An unprecedented meeting between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, players, and team owners took place Tuesday at league headquarters to address the National Anthem protest controversy. It was supposed to be an open and frank discussion of the issue, but one obvious voice was not invited to be heard.
According to the Los Angeles Times, joining Goodell and the owners were Russell Okung (San Diego), Josh Norman (Washington), Darius Butler (Indianapolis), Kenny Stills (Miami), Julius Thomas (Miami), Michael Thomas (Miami), Malcolm Jenkins (Philadelphia), Chris Long (Philadelphia), and Eric Reid (San Francisco). Nearly all of the players in attendance were among those who chose to kneel during the anthem. Former player Anquan Boldin was there as well.
There was, however, one notable absence: former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. According to the Times, an NFL spokesman said he was not aware if Kaepernick was even invited to the meeting.
It is odd that Goodell chose to invite at least one former player to participate, but not the player who started the controversy to begin with. Or perhaps it isn’t odd at all. With ratings and attendance declining for NFL games, appearing to give Kaepernick yet another platform would not have gone over well with millions of angry fans. No matter the reason, Kaepernick’s exclusion from the meeting, and his likely shunning by the NFL, should be considered a slap in the face to the protest movement.
Also absent was Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who promised to bench any player who knelt during the anthem. His presence would have likely enraged the protesting players, some of whom have likened him to a slave owner after he issued his edict.
After the meeting, the league and NFLPA released this joint statement:
“Today owners and players had a productive meeting focused on how we can work together to promote positive social change and address inequality in our communities. NFL executives and owners joined NFLPA executives and player leaders to review and discuss plans to utilize our platform to promote equality and effectuate positive change. We agreed that these are common issues and pledged to meet again to continue this work together.
“As we said last week, everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military. In the best American tradition, we are coming together to find common ground and commit to the hard work required for positive change.”