While speaking to a group of season-ticket holders for the Arizona Cardinals this week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about if players sitting down during the national anthem is “going to be another problem” this season.
“I think it’s one of those things where I think we have to understand that there are people who have different viewpoints,” Goodell said in response. “It’s something that I think everybody wants. The national anthem is a special moment to me. It’s a point of pride. That is a really important moment. But we also have to understand the other side that people do have rights and we want to respect those.”
The question comes after a number of NFL players took a stand against the national anthem over the weekend. Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett sat on the bench prior to a game against the San Diego Chargers because he wanted to use his platform to “speak out on injustice” following the white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia that resulted in one death and the injury of 19 others. Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins continued his protest from last season by holding his fist in the air during the national anthem as “a sign of protest over racial injustice.” Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch also sat on the bench during the national anthem on Saturday, although it’s still unclear if his was actually a silent protest or simply a part of his normal pregame routine.
“I was with the Jets a few weeks ago and one of the players was there there in the fan forum – actually, we were talking about this – and they were asked the same question,” Goodell continued. “And they said, you know, there’s a time and a place. That’s what we all have to sort of understand, the responsibility of doing it at the right time and in right way. And what we see is a lot of players going into the community and really taking the platform they have and being active and creating dialogue and actually making really positive change. That’s what I think is so important. Protest to progress is what I call it.”
In an interview with For The Win’s Charles Curtis, former NFL linebacker Bart Scott said he believes what happened in Charlottesville will only inspire more athlete to speak up and take action. Whether or not that means more players sit down for the national anthem or get more involved in their communities – or both – remains to be seen.