NFL commissioner Goodell on anthem protests: 'We have to understand the other side'

Asked about players who did not stand for the national anthem before preseason games, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that while the playing of the anthem is a special moment to him, "we also have to understand the other side."

"Why can't he just say 'You stand up,'" season-ticket holder Bruce Olson challenging Goodell

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he wishes players would stand for the national anthem, but said he respects their right to express their opinion about civil rights issues. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Asked about players who did not stand for the national anthem before preseason games, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that while the playing of the anthem is a special moment to him, "we also have to understand the other side."

Goodell made the comments at University of Phoenix Stadium during a 45-minute question-and-answer period with Arizona Cardinals club seat holders. One season ticket-holder, Bruce Olson, asked the commissioner whether players were going to continue to protest during the anthem and if anything could be done about it.

"It's one of those things where I think we have to understand that there are people that have different viewpoints," Goodell said. "The national anthem is a special moment to me. It's a point of pride. But we also have to understand the other side, that people do have rights and we want to respect those."

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett sat on the visiting bench during the anthem before the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, a decision he made before weekend protests by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. Bennett has said that the aim of his protest is to make people uncomfortable. In the process, he hopes to spur greater communication, understanding and involvement across racial, gender and socio-economic lines.

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat on a cooler during the anthem Saturday night on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium. Los Angeles Rams defensive end Robert Quinn raised a fist before his team's game.

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sits during the national anthem prior to the team's NFL pre-season game against the Arizona Cardinals. (Rick Scuteri/The Associated Press)

The fact that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still looking for a team to play for after his kneel-down protests last season is also still a hot topic.

Goodell, without mentioning any of the players, said other players are taking the platform they have into local communities to create dialogue toward positive change.

"Protest to progress is what I call it, and we all have to recognize that if we want to see change, let's go out and try to make that change happen in a peaceful and important way," Goodell said.

Olson, who described himself as a season-ticket holder "since Day 1," said the commissioner "beat around the bush" on the issue. He said he'd like Goodell to take a tougher stance.

"The thing is, all he [Lynch] has to do is stand up for two minutes and he can still have whatever beliefs he wants. Go with what looks good for the game and to the people," Olson said. "He [Goodell] makes rules and, 'You do this, you do that,' why can't he just say 'You stand up. You can believe what you want or do what you want. Just stand up like a man."'

Seahawks' coach supports Bennett

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is supporting Bennett's decision to sit during the national anthem while also saying he believes players should stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Carroll spoke Tuesday about Bennett's decision to sit before the preseason opener Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. Bennett didn't inform Carroll or his teammates of his decision to sit while the rest of the Seahawks stood locked arm-in-arm on the sideline.

Bennett said after the game that the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, including the death of a woman struck by a car deliberately driven into a group of counter-protesters, solidified his decision.

Carroll said he's met with Bennett on a couple of occasions since Sunday to talk about his actions. "It's easy for me to support him in his issues. But I think we should all be standing up when we're playing the national anthem," Carroll said.


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