NFL team owners are reportedly considering a rule change that would require football players to stand during the national anthem. President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the league for allowing players to kneel during the anthem to protest against police brutality and racial inequality.
On Oct. 10, NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart announced that NFL team owners would discuss a potential rule change about conduct during the anthem during an upcoming meeting in New York, Yahoo News reports.
"They will have a chance to -- all of them -- discuss this issue, to look at the policy and look at ideas if there is a need to change the policies," Lockhart said. "I fully expect this to be front and center on the agenda."
That same day, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell submitted a letter to all 32 team owners stating that he wanted all league players to stand during the anthem.
"Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem," Goodell wrote. "It is an important moment in our game ... We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues."
The commissioner concluded: "We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players."
The NFL game operations manual currently states that players should stand during the anthem, but it does not mandate that they must stand.
Goodell's letter and Lockhart's disclosure arrived a day after NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith announced in a statement that league owners were told not to reprimand players who knelt during the anthem, The Washington Post reports.
On Oct. 9, Smith stated: "Last week both the commissioner and the chair of the NFL Management Council John Mara were clear when they assured our union leaders, in the presence of other owners, that they would respect the Constitutional rights of our members without retribution."
In August 2016, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began to sit during the national anthem to protest police brutality against racial minorities.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Several other NFL players gradually joined Kaepernick's protest by kneeling during the national anthem. Critics of the protest argued that the players were disrespecting U.S. military service members.
On Sept. 22, Trump entered the national debate over the NFL protests when he called for team owners to fire players who knelt during the anthem.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b***h off the field right now," Trump said during a campaign rally in Alabama, according to The Guardian. "Out! He's fired. He's fired!"
Trump continued his criticisms of the NFL on social media, repeatedly calling on league owners to institute a new rule that would force players to stand during the anthem or be dismissed. On Oct. 10, the president suggested that Congress should change the NFL's tax status if team owners did not make the rule change.
"Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country?" Trump tweeted out. "Change tax law!"