One month into the NFL season, representatives from the league’s ownership and players’ union gathered for an annual meeting to discuss, among many other things, what to do about players who choose to kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest against police brutality and systematic racism.
The meeting came after weeks of pearl clutching by conservatives, including Donald Trump who spent more time tweeting about NFL players than he did about the devastation in Puerto Rico or the ongoing wildfires in California. Three weeks ago, Trump escalated his war of words by calling on NFL owners to fire or otherwise punish players who don’t stand for the anthem, but on Tuesday, the owners ignored Trump and chose to allow players to continue to kneel if they so choose.
The league also agreed to support some of the causes for which the protesting players have been advocating, including reformation of the criminal justice system, according to the New York Times.
The agreement was met with derision from Trump, who once again turned to Twitter to attack the league.
The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
Trump, something an expert in disrespecting the country after repeatedly insulting gold star families, mocking prisoners of war, and exploiting dead soldiers, has tweeted at least two dozen times about the protests since the season began.
The league’s decision to acquiesce to its players by not imposing a new rule mandating they stand during the national anthem—a directive that many players vowed not to abide by anyway—is the latest wrinkle in their convoluted response to the protests, which began over a year ago when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem. After Donald Trump’s initial outburst last month, several team owners joined their players and coaches in pregame demonstrations of solidarity in a move many considered lip service.
But since then, several owners—including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross—adopted a more hard-line approach to protesters, threatening to suspend any player who knelt during the anthem. So far, those threats have proven empty.
The meeting, which was held in New York City, featured several team owners, representatives from the player’s union, and a handful of protesting players. Not present was Kaepernick himself, who is not technically in the league but whose initial protest ignited the entire movement. Just this week, Kaepernick filed a formal grievance against the NFL, alleging that the league colluded to keep him off of an NFL roster in retaliation for his outspokenness. That suit, if successful, could completely dismantle the NFL’s much-maligned collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union several years early.