NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The issue of player protests during the national anthem was a major focus among NFL team owners who are gathering Tuesday in New York City.
NFL owners meet every fall for one day to discuss league business.READ MORE: Federal Arrest Warrant Issued For Gabby Petito's Missing Fiancé Brian Laundrie
But before the meeting got underway at the Conrad Hotel in Battery Park City, team owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell met with about a dozen players and their union leaders to discuss the ongoing protests.
A joint statement from the NFL and the players union said they had “a productive meeting focused on how we can work together to promote positive social change and address inequality in our communities.”
“Everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military,” the statement read. “In the best American tradition, we are coming together to find common ground and commit to the hard work required for positive change.”
“Today’s discussion with our players was very productive and very important. It reflected, I think, our commitment to work together on issues of social justice,” Goodell added Tuesday afternoon.
Colts safety Darius Butler said he was pleased with the meeting.
“I’m happy about it and I think it’d be even more positive going forward,” Butler said. He added that when it comes to taking a knee during the national anthem, “That’s going to come down to the individual. It’s going to be an individual choice.”
Local names in attendance included New York Giants’ Co-owner John Mara, Giants’ linebacker Mark Herzlich, Jets’ tackled Kelvin Beachum and Jets’ linebacker Demario Davis.
Nothing was said Tuesday about a possible rule change requiring players to stand while the anthem plays, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported. The idea was discussed last week in a letter from Goodell to the team owners.READ MORE: 'I Can't Take This Anymore': Heavy Rain In Tri-State Area Renews Flooding Concerns For Many Still Dealing With Damage From Ida
Meanwhile, demonstrators knelt in front of the hotel doors in a symbolic sign of solidarity.
“The NFL owners have to accept that this is part of sports,” said protester Jamie Bauer. “Players take positions and they make statements. They don’t have to support the particular issues, but they have to support the expression.”
Days ago, the originator of the protests, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, filed a grievance with the league accusing owners of colluding against him to keep him from being signed by a team.
Kaepernick started a national conversation about political activism by athletes last season when he decided to sit, and then kneel, during the anthem to bring attention to mistreatment of African-Americans by police.
Other players have continued the protests this season, prompting an angry response from President Donald Trump, who said players should be fired for not standing during the anthem.
Since then the NFL says letters and emails have been pouring into team offices with some people threatening to boycott the games. Other fans are boycotting because Kaepernick hasn’t been signed to a team since he started the protests.
Goodell told club executives last week in a memo obtained by The Associated Press that the anthem issue is dividing the league from its fans. He said the NFL needs “to move past this controversy.”
Some players are proposing the league partner with them to initiate programs to bring attention to civil rights and to improve inner city relations with police.MORE NEWS: 1 Killed, 13 Injured In Shooting At Kroger In Collierville, Tennessee
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)