BUFFALO, NY – The ongoing controversy over NFL players declining to stand during the National Anthem, as a means to protest social injustices, took another turn with a letter from the NFL Commissioner to team owners which was interpreted by many – apparently incorrectly – as a directive from Roger Goodell for players to stand.
The NFL on Wednesday said that was not the case.
Controversy On Top of Controversy.
In his letter, obtained by several news outlets on Tuesday night, Goodell wrote: "Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country and our fans expect that of us.”
This prompted a tweet by President Donald Trump, in which he stated: “It’s about time that Goodell is finally demanding that all players stand for the National Anthem.”
However, in statement released Wednesday morning, the NFL said “commentary this morning about the Commissioner’s position on the Anthem is not accurate.”
Indeed, while Goodell clearly stated his belief that players should stand, in no part of the letter did he issue a directive that they do so.
The letter went on to say that the protests during the National Anthem, which many fans have found to be in poor taste, unpatriotic, and disrespectful, would be a topic of discussion at a league meeting next week.
Thurman Weighs In
A spokesperson for the Buffalo Bills told WGRZ-TV that neither the team nor its owners, Terry and Kim Pegula, would comment on the latest turn of events involving Goodell’s statement.
While the Bills may not be talking, however, Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas did speak out about the issue.
“I think it's something that obviously has to be talked about," Thomas told reporters, during a check presentation to Erie County from Batavia Downs, as part of the long standing revenue sharing agreement between Western Regional Off Track Betting and local municipalities.
Thomas, who works as an ambassador for Batavia Downs Gaming, retired from the game 16 years ago.
"I think when you look at what has happened over the past couple of weeks the narrative has kind of changed a little bit. Now it's more about the military and the flag and the anthem instead of what Colin Kaepernick started protesting about last year," Thomas said.
Kaepernick, when he began sitting or kneeling instead of standing in during the National Anthem during the 2016 pre-season, stated it was to call attention to inequality among the races and police brutality. After finishing last season as the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick exercised his option to become a free agent and left the team. He has yet to be re-signed by another team.
“Hopefully it’s going to come to some type of point where the players, the owners, the league, the sponsors, or whoever are going to agree on something," said Thomas.
But Thomas, who says he agrees with players protesting during the anthem, doesn’t see a resolution anytime soon.
“We still have to talk about the issues which were brought up…about police brutality and racial injustice," said Thomas.
“Now you have President Number 45 all into it and the Vice President walking out of games. I think it (the protests) is going to get bigger. You can’t sit there and tell the players- and I know people do- that they are making millions of dollars so they should just sit down and shut up. That’s not gonna happen and I think this coming Sunday you will continue to see a lot of players kneel. And for me, that's something I'm looking forward to," Thomas said.