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NFL and players' union reps meet over national anthem policy

The Washington Post

Representatives of the NFL and the NFL Players Association met Monday in the New York area as part of their ongoing deliberations over the sport's national anthem policy.

The meeting was to include players and owners, along with league and NFLPA officials, and came as the regular season nears. It is not clear if the two sides will be able to reach a compromise on a new anthem policy by the Sept. 6 season-opening game in Philadelphia between the Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.

The league put its new anthem policy, ratified by the owners in May, on hold at the outset of training camps as part of an agreement with the NFLPA. The union, in return, at least temporarily halted its grievance against that policy.

The owners have remained interested in attempting to get the players to stand for the anthem before games, according to people familiar with the situation. Some representatives of the players have said they might prefer a return to the anthem policy that was in effect before May's change. That policy suggested that players stand for the anthem but did not require it.

Los Angeles Chargers offensive lineman Russell Okung wrote on Twitter that he would attend the meeting.

"I'm looking forward to today's meeting in NYC," Okung wrote. "I believe this face to face conversation is pivotal [and] will determine if meaningful progress will be made."

Okung cited the passionate defense of players' right to protest offered recently by Texas Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke.

"What if owners adopted a leadership posture, recognizing 'reasonable people can disagree on this issue' instead of viewing player protests as a threat[?]" Okung wrote.

Several people with knowledge of the deliberations confirmed the meeting but said they don't know if a resolution will be reached before the season.

After the meeting was concluded, the NFLPA posted a statement to its Twitter account saying "Today, we continued our productive dialogue on the issues that players have raised awareness about and we remain committed to working together on solutions. In the spirit of our ongoing collaboration and progress, we will continue the confidentiality of our discussions."

Some players have continued to protest during this preseason. Others have remained off the field during the playing of the anthem.

After some players protested during the first full slate of preseason games, the NFL reiterated its preference that players stand.

President Donald Trump has continued his sharp criticisms of protests during the anthem by NFL players, begun in 2016 by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and continued last season by other players while Kaepernick was out of the league.

The policy ratified by the owners in May said that the league could discipline a team for any protest during the anthem by a player. It left it up to the team involved whether a player would be disciplined for a protest. That policy gave players the option to remain in the locker room during the playing of the anthem. The policy that was in effect last season required players to be on the field during the anthem.

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