The NFL said Friday it has no plans to force players to stand during the national anthem, but will convene to discuss ways to end the controversial protests without imposing new rules.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is set to meet with the head of the NFL Players Association and team owners in New York next week, where the protests are likely to dominate discussion.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said that Goodell “has a plan that he is going to present to owners about how to use our platform to both raise awareness and make progress on issues of social justice and equality in this country,” according to Reuters.
The league pushed back on speculation about a possible vote on a proposal next week. The NFL previously said its meeting next week would allow owners a chance to review current policy, which encourages players to stand during the anthem but doesn’t make it mandatory.
The league released a joint statement with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) earlier this week saying that they would work to advance the mission of the protests, which have called attention to issues of racial injustice and police brutality toward African-Americans.
“What we don’t have is a proposal that changes our policy, we don’t have something that mandates anything. That’s clear,” Lockhart added. “If that was the case I doubt the head of the NFLPA would have put a joint statement out with us.”
Goodell said in a previous statement on Tuesday that “everyone should stand for the National Anthem.” The commissioner said that while he respected the players and their concerns, the protests are a “barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues.”
The White House came out in favor of an NFL move to make players observe the national anthem, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying in a briefing Tuesday that “I think we would certainly support the NFL coming out and asking players to stand.”
Trump, who has railed against the protests as disrespectful toward the nation and the American flag, addressed the issue again during his weekly address to the nation released Friday.
“Before watching a football game, you want to see those players be proud of their country. Respect our country. Respect our flag. And respect our national anthem and we think they will. We certainly hope they will,” Trump said.