Goodell: NFL won't force players to stand for anthem

Players are upset. Fans are upset. And television ratings are down. So the NFL is working to find a solution and Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is taking the players' concerns seriously.

"We believe that our players should stand for the national anthem," Goodell said Wednesday.

But he stopped short of imposing a rule requiring players to stand. Goodell met with NFL owners in New York for the league's annual fall meeting.

Dozens of players have sat, taken a knee, or stayed off the field during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. Goodell said he does not believe the actions are disrespecting the flag. He said he and team owners understand the players want criminal justice reform and equal, fair treatment for minorities.

"Everyone feels strongly about our country and have pride. We're not afraid of the tough conversations," Goodell said. "Out of those discussions, the owners and the NFL really do care about their issues and what we can do to make the communities better."

Last season, Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, was the first player to take a knee. He is now off the team and has filed a grievance claiming owners are colluding to keep him out of the NFL. The CEO of the 49ers said he has a newfound respect for Kaepernick.

"He was courageous in what he did, but now we have to go from protest to progress," Jed York said.

A majority of fans surveyed do not support the protests on the field, which have drawn boos. Television ratings are down about 8 percent this year after a similar decline last season.

Once again, President Trump inserted his opinion via Twitter, "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."

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy tweeted, "the president ought to invite some of these young men to the White House to hear their concerns. … Leaders don't just complain they look for solutions."

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has warned his players that if they kneel, they won't play. But Goodell said disciplinary actions by individual teams were not discussed at the meeting.

"I would tell you this, it's unprecedented conversations and dialogue going on between our players and our owners, between our club officials and between our league," Goodell said. "And that is a really positive change for us."