Players across the NFL protested and showed demonstrations of unity during the playing of the national anthem Sunday following remarks made over the weekend by President Donald Trump that team owners should fire players who fail to stand for the national anthem prior to games.
"The way we reacted today, and this weekend, made me proud," Goodell said. "I'm proud of our league."
Speaking at a political rally Friday night in Alabama, Trump said, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired. He's fired!' You know some owner is going to do that. He's going to say, 'That guy disrespects our flag; he's fired.' And that owner, they don't know it. They're friends of mine, many of them. They'll be the most popular person, for a week. They'll be the most popular person in this country."
Trump's comments prompted an outpouring of demonstrations and comments from players, coaches and teams. Teams locked arms in solidarity during the anthem, while many players opted to kneel or sit during "The Star-Spangled Banner." The Titans and Seahawkschose not to participate in the anthem before their game in Nashville, Tennessee, as did nearly the entireSteelers team in Chicago. Pittsburgh offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, an Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, stood just outside of the tunnel entrance to the field, not on the sidelines during the anthem.
"I spent a lot of time listening to our players and coaches and owners over the past two days," Goodell said Sunday afternoon. "They really care about our league. I just think we need more understanding. I was trying to find out with the players and coaches, 'How are you feeling? What's going on in your locker rooms?' They were trying to figure out ways to respond."
Goodell told King he was not surprised by Sunday's demonstrations. "They reflected the frustration, the disappointment, of the players over the divisive rhetoric we heard [from Trump]."