The National Football League presented a united front with its players in a meeting held at league headquarters Tuesday.
In a joint statement, the NFL and NFL Players Association explained the meeting as being focused on “how we can work together to promote positive social change and address inequality in our communities.”
The statement also assures, in the face of public pressure from President Trump, that despite some players kneeling during the National Anthem, “Everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military.”
“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,” the statement reads. “We agreed that these are common issues and pledged to meet again to continue this work together.”
“In the best American tradition,” it goes on, “we are coming together to find common ground and commit to the hard work required for positive change.”
Concurrently with Tuesday’s meeting, Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell co-authored a letter to be delivered to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, pledging the league’s support of a new bill, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017.
That bill — sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — is a bipartisan effort aimed at reforming sentencing laws and correctional institutions.
The Baldwin/Goodell letter reads in part (full letter here):
Dear Chairman Grassley, Minority Whip Durbin, Senator Lee, and Senator Whitehouse:
We are writing to offer the National Football League’s full support for the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 (S. 1917). We want to add our voice to the broad and bipartisan coalition of business leaders, law enforcement officials, veterans groups, ci vii rights organizations, conservative thought leaders, and faith-based organizations that have been working for five years to enact the changes called for in this comprehensive legislation.
Football and community are the twin pillars of the NFL. Whether nationally at the league level, locally at the team level, or individually through the volunteerism and philanthropy of owners, players, coaches and club personnel, there exists a powerful NFL-wide commitment to giving back. This commitment is year-round; there is no offseason to the NFL’s multi-tiered, ongoing work to strengthen America’s communities.
When the hometowns of our players or the 32 communities in which our clubs are located are hurting – whether from natural disasters or those that are man-made – so too are our teams. And like most Americans, our owners, players, coaches and clubs spring into action to help. Over the last two seasons, one particular issue that has come to the forefront for our players and our teams is the issue of justice for all.
Last season, as part of our lvfy Cause My Cleats initiative, several players chose to highlight equality and justice on their cleats, while others chose causes related to supporting the difficult work of law enforcement. These expressions of player advocacy aptly capture the challenges we currently face as a nation – ensuring that every American has equal rights and equal protection under the law, while simultaneously ensuring that all law enforcement personnel have the proper resources, tools, and training and are treated with honor and respect.
Recognizing the complexities we face as a society – and professional sports leagues are a microcosm of our society – NFL players and teams have convened discussions and hosted events, both public and private, to encourage greater community dialogue and understanding.
President Trump, in a Sept. 22 speech, called on NFL owners to fire or suspend players who refuse to stand during the National Anthem, and suggested fans boycott the league until team owners take action against its players.
Several protests were staged in front of the league office prior to Tuesday’s meeting.