Following those comments, more than 200 players protested during the anthem that weekend before the number of protesters dwindled as the season progressed.
“We’re here for a bigger platform,” Raiders tight end Jared Cook said during the spring. “We’re not just athletes. We’re people that live this. It’s people in our neighbourhood, it’s people that we grew up with, it’s people that we know who are actually living through these circumstances. So when we speak on it, it’s not like we’re just speaking out of the side of our neck. It’s things that actually touch home and things that we can actually relate to.
“All I have to say is, I just think it’s sad that it’s veered from something that stood for good and the whole narrative has changed into something that’s negative when that was not what it was initially about in the first place.”
The NFL started requiring players to be on the field for the anthem in 2009 — the year it signed a marketing deal with the military.
“We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand,” Goodell said at the May meetings, when he dismissed concerns about the lack of union involvement by contending the league met with countless players over the past year.
“We’ve been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices,” the commissioner added, “but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.”