“Whether or not Roger [Goodell] and the owners will speak for themselves about their views on player rights and their commitment to player safety remains to be seen,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement, referring both to the anthem remarks and the lamentations regarding the lack of old-school violence in the sport. “This union, however, will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks.”
The NFL and the owners previously have spoken, via the absence of any rule that compels players to stand for the anthem and the periodic comments reiterating that players do have the right to kneel or sit or otherwise protest during the playing of the anthem. (The ongoing unemployment of Colin Kaepernick arguably makes those comments a bit hollow.) But the Friday night remarks from the Commander-in-Chief seem to compel a response, and it’s likely that a statement from the league is coming soon.