WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says "it is about time" that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell demands "that all players STAND for our great National Anthem-RESPECT OUR COUNTRY."
Trump made a reference Wednesday on Twitter to Goodell's meetings next week with NFL owners, where they will consider changes to a game manual that says players "should" stand during the national anthem. That's a guideline that the league has left to the discretion of players who have kneeled in larger numbers after Trump's criticism.
NFL owners will have their annual fall meeting in New York next Tuesday and Wednesday, and the league has invited the players' union to take part.
"Commissioner Roger Goodell reached out to NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith (Wednesday) and both he and player leadership will attend the league meetings next week," the NFL said in a statement. "There has been no change in the current policy regarding the anthem. The agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized. Everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military, and we are coming together to deal with these issues in a civil and constructive way."
Goodell told club executives Tuesday in a memo obtained by The Associated Press that the anthem issue is dividing the league from its fans. He said the NFL needs to move past the controversy.
"The real dialogue and the real issues have been overtaken by the controversy," Goodell told NFL Network. "What we want to do is get back to focusing on the actions that we want to take to really improve our communities and support our players to get things done."
Goodell met Tuesday with Miami Dolphins players, law enforcement and community leaders.
"The NFL is doing the hard work of trying to move from protest to progress, working to bring people together," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement.
Trump told supporters last month that owners should fire players who kneel during the anthem, reigniting the movement started by former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick over his view of police mistreatment of black males.
In an interview on Fox News Channel's (FNC) Hannity airing Wednesday night, Trump said the NFL could've avoided this issue by suspending Kaepernick.
"I watched Colin Kaepernick and I thought it was terrible," Trump said. "And then it got bigger and bigger and started mushrooming. And frankly the NFL should have suspended him for one game and he would have never done it again. They could have then suspended him for two games and they could have suspended him again if he did it a third time, for the season, and you would never have had a problem."
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The Associated Press