A group of eight players, more than half of NFL team owners and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met at league headquarters in New York on Tuesday to discuss social issues important to players, a source informed of the meeting told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.
Many of the NFL team owners were in New York earlier this week for committee meetings ahead of the Fall League Meeting scheduled for October. Goodell believed it offered a good opportunity for him to meet alongside owners and players to gauge their feelings on social issues and for everyone to gain a better understanding of the actions players took during the national anthem before games lasted week, Rapoport reported.
"It was my understanding that eight players from five different teams got into a room and talked to Goodell and some of the owners just about the issues that they're facing," Rapoport reported on TNF First Look Live. "The social issues they want to bring to light: Why some kneeling? Why some were not on the field for the anthem? Just, really, everything that has gone on with the protests and the anthem decisions that were going on earlier in the week. Sounds like it was very productive, at times it was pretty intense, as these issues tend to be, but overall a very positive experience for everyone."
Among the players in attendance was New York Giants defensive end Jonathan Casillas, who told reporters the meeting lasted two hours and described it as "productive." He said Giants co-owner John Mara also was in attendance. Mara, Casillas said, requested that Giants players stand for the anthem, but also said he would support those who still wanted to kneel. That sentiment was echoed by Giants safety Landon Collins, who told reporters Thursday he had a "heart to heart" with Mara and that he was very supportive of player concerns.
"For me, it was great to take away perspective, to see both sides," McCourty told reporters Thursday. "I thought it was cool just to be open. They were very open, we were very open. The feelings with how everything kind of went down and how we felt as players. I think it was just a great situation and opportunity that we all could just sit there and talk and to throw everything out there. And I think both sides got to walk away with an understanding with how each other felt.
"It was just a big dialogue. And a lot of guys have been trying to start this dialogue. I think it was obviously a step in the right direction as far as being able to talk and have dialogue about different issues and different topics. So I thought that was good."
The meeting was four days after President Trump stated at a political rally in Alabama that team owners should fire players who fail to stand for the national anthem prior to games. The NFL, NFL Players Association and league owners issued responses to Trump's statements. Players in every game Sunday and Monday took part in protests and displays of solidarity during the anthem before games.
Casillas expressed hope players who have decided to take action during the anthem were doing so for the reasons that led Colin Kaepernick to take a knee and not just a response to President Trump's statements.
"We kind of left Kaepernick to hang. I think so. Collectively. We all did it as the NFL, with the owners included in all that, with the coaches and everything. I don't want to compare him to Rosa Parks in any type of way. But the situation is similar. What Rosa Parks did when she sat in the front of the bus and did not get up, that was the craziest thing that anybody has done. Disrespectful to white people, disrespectful to the country, disrespectful to the laws that we had established. Because those were the laws back then. But you know what? The whole black race, minorities in general, were behind Rosa Parks. And stuff got done because of that. Laws were changed because of that. And when Kaepernick kneeled, he didn't receive any support from a lot of us. And now, it's like, OK, we're kneeling with him now. Are we really kneeling with him now? Are we? Or are we going against what President Trump said?"