NEW YORK (AFP) – A meeting between NFL team owners and players representatives ended on Tuesday with no agreement on the thorny issue of protests during the national anthem, which has bitterly divided the sport.
A joint statement released by the National Football League and the NFL Players Association described the meeting in New York as “productive”.
“NFL executives and owners joined NFLPA executives and player leaders to review and discuss plans to utilise our platform to promote equality and effectuate positive change,” the statement said.
“We agreed that these are common issues and pledged to meet again to continue this work together.”
However, there was no resolution of the issue of anthem protests, which has caused deep splits across the NFL.
“As we said last week, everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military,” the statement said.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick launched the protests in 2016, refusing to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” in order to draw attention to racial injustice by law enforcement agencies.
Kaepernick was not invited to Tuesday’s meeting but his lawyers hinted later he would be willing to attend future talks.
The protests had mostly fizzled out until last month, when US President Donald Trump reignited the issue by decrying any player who kneeled during the anthem as a “son of a bitch” who should be fired.
Trump’s remarks sparked a furious backlash amongst NFL players, team owners and league officials, with large-scale protests by players during the anthem in the weekend following the US President’s tirade.
Trump has maintained his offensive against the protesting athletes, on Monday calling for the NFL to suspend players who continued to kneel.
“When you go down and take a knee for our national anthem, you’re disrespecting our flag and you’re disrespecting our country,” Trump said.
“The NFL should’ve suspended some of these players for one game. Not fire them. Suspended them for one game and then if they did it again, it could be one game then two games then three games and then for the season.
“You wouldn’t have people disrespecting our country right now.”
Players protesting during the anthem have insisted they intend no disrespect to the flag or the US military.