Goodell On Player ‘Protest To Progress’: We ‘Have To Understand The Other Side’


No matter how much we might want to appreciate something like sports as a respite from the burdens of everyday life, including the political sphere, the simple basic fact of the matter is that, as citizens, politics pervades every aspect of our lives. Football is played by active citizens, and they tend to have opinions about politics.

This has been an increased focus over the course of the past couple of years, and really drew to a head last season when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick announced that he would be kneeling during pre-game ceremonies singing the national anthem.

The decision by Kaepernick, while joined by many others around the league, made him a lightning rod of attention, both positive and negative, but on the eve of the regular season, he remains without a job in the NFL.

But this is not a political post, nor is it a Kaepernick post. I’m not a political commentator and don’t aim to be. Still, the notion of player acts of protests is one that everybody in the football world is now being forced to address, and that is exactly what Roger Goodell did recently.

Speaking earlier this week to a group of ticket-holders for the Cardinals, he was asked about player protests—I believe Arizona’s coach, Bruce Arians, is on record in essentially demanding that his players stand, although that is not technically possible on legal grounds—and he gave the following response.


It’s one of those things where I think we have to understand that there are people that have different viewpoints”, the Commissioner conceded. “The national anthem is a special moment to me. It’s a point of pride. But we also have to understand the other side, that people do have rights and we want to respect those”.

I will refrain from indulging in giving my own opinion on the matter, but the NFL does understand that Kaepernick is not the only player who has in some form or fashion offered signs of protest for political reasons, and Michael Bennett became the latest high-profile player to do so.

“‘Protest to progress’ is what I call it”, Goodell said, “and we all have to recognize that if we want to see change, let’s go out and try to make that change happen in a peaceful and important way”. I imagine it would be difficult for him to say much else without drawing fire from one side or another.

As far as the Pittsburgh Steelers goes, I have not gotten the sense that there is any intention among players to participate in any sort of pre-game protest. Some of this may have to do with the deference and respect paid to their recently-made millionaire left tackle, Alejandro Villanueva, who as a decorated war veteran offered his own thoughts on Kaepernick’s protest last year.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • reddickranch@msn.com

    No we don’t have to understand idiots!

  • Zhan 使美国再次伟大

    Mocking the country and it’s traditions and symbols.

    Great way to appeal to your customers, like hanging a picture of Chairman Mao on the wall…

  • ayub

    I wouldn’t say it’s mocking. There’s more than one way to be American without feeling the need to salute a flag. I don’t hate or disagree with anyone who salutes yet I understand why many may not.

  • george

    Kap isn’t unemployed because he wouldn’t stand for the national anthem. If that were the case ALL the rest of the other players that sat, knelt or otherwise protested would be unemployed. Kap had an option to stay with the niners this year but declined that option. That was his choice to test the FA market. He has great physical skills but he’s a “system” QB which is why he had great success under Harbaugh. I suspect he would like a shot at a starting position and would like to make at least near what the niners would have paid him. Since there are only 32 starting QB positions and most are basically filled that leaves very few options. Unless, of course, he would be interested in jumping into that dumpster fire they have in the Jets camp.

  • Alan Tman

    The name says it all, and yet proves that there is truth in your statement.

  • francesco

    My opinion is that there is no need to stand or sit for the national anthem.
    Not sure why sports and love of country have anything to do with each other.

  • Walt Dongo

    Leftist bs has infested literally everything now, cant hardly watch sports or a movie without some mental illness, degenerate or progressive mind control ideal being shoved in your face. Ill turn off football too at some point, im sure of it. Hope #7 comes this winter.

  • Terrible Towlie

    the government doesnt need to invade every aspect of life

  • SfSteeler

    Totally agree…to follow 100% is to follow blindly and give up your frontal lobe without an opinion…every sinner is a saint and every saint a sinner and thus must be questioned in some form…

  • AndyR34

    Amen and Thank You!

  • WreckIess

    The issue isn’t about Lynch, Kaepernick, Brandon Marshall, etc kneeling or sitting. The issue is the fact that people either don’t get what they’re protesting or just don’t want them to protest at all. Many have even tried to flip it to make it seem like they’re all anti-America, anti-police, or like they don’t support the troops which is completely incorrect. They’re not even protesting the National Anthem itself. They just believe there’s a tremendous amount of hate towards people of color in this country and they want to change that. That’s all there is to it. Everyone can feel however they want about their protests, but they should at least try to understand their points.

  • Walt Dongo

    I dont tune in to entertain NFL employees’ political and socioeconomic views, I am interested in the sport of football. Leave the that junk on twitter and play ball. The fact that the NFL disables comments on their own website for these articles says a lot; they know where most fans stand on this.

  • WreckIess

    Or they know the kind of racist cesspool the comment section becomes when this type of thing occurs. Seriously did you see the reaction to Marshall kneeling? One of the tweets said that they “Hope he gets cancer on top of AIDS.” Then they proceeded to call him a “disrespectful N-word”. I wouldn’t want my comment section full of that type of trash either.

  • Walt Dongo

    No i didnt see the reaction, only the headline…thats as far as i would go with such topics. Also, i refuse to sign up for facebook to be able to comment on their site.

  • francesco

    When i go on long driving trips in the car with my kids…we sing the national anthem sitting down obviously even as the highways are full of bumps and potholes.

  • WreckIess

    Ok well that’s why they disabled the comments. To keep their site from becoming a racial war zone.

  • Stephen

    John Tortorella said it best when coaching the American hockey team, ” if anyone sits on the bench during the national anthem, they will sit right there on the bench during the game”

  • Bobby Lewis

    The whole point of a protest is to bring attention to something. As professional athletes, they all have a platform to bring more attention to things they’re passionate about than most, so why not use the platform they’ve been afforded to do so? Also, it’s like two minutes out of a three-hour broadcast. It’s not at all affecting their abilities to play football, so why do you have a problem with it? Is their peaceful protesting hurting you at all? Does it in any way ruin your Sunday just as you’re getting ready to sit yourself down in front of a TV for 10 hours? Or do you just not believe police brutality and racism is a problem and think they should all shut up and fall in line?

  • RickM

    I’m white and I’ll never be bound by rigid ideology, left or right. I look at the facts of issues and form my own opinions. My only constant is that I reject hate, and racism of any kind falls within that definition. I would have to be blind to not recognize that people of color can experience discrimination. I have no problem if a black player passively protests by sitting during the anthem. Last time I looked many African-Americans have served their country, and even given their lives. They don’t have to prove their patriotism to me on a football field.

  • john bennett

    If they have stood for the Anthem throughout their entire football lives, and signed a contract making them rich and never in need again, and then choose to make a stand on their employers time and money, they are phony as a three dollar bill..

  • ayub

    I love your post.

  • pittfan

    I think AV had it right.

  • Bob Loblaw

    What about one of our greatest traditions: free speech? Flags and songs at the end of the day don’t define the country, the ideals the founders worked so hard to install are what make the country great.

  • lyke skywalker

    PC is taking over everything and if you don’t agree, you get terrorized.

  • LucasY59

    IIRC Tomlin answered a question last yr when the Kappernick stuff started and said the team was in a special situation because they had Al on the team and as teammates they were going to stand with him regardless of their political feelings

  • Jeff Peterson

    And yet some of the same people who are tearing down the confederate monuments (which I didn’t have a personal opinion on), now want to tear down the Thomas Jefferson memorial because he owned slaves. Well Jefferson also signed the constitution, and declaration of independence. Are they going to tear that up too? When will it stop? I believe in free speech but when they start treading on my freedoms and values because they are offended, I have a problem. You know there are now ESPN journalists calling for the removal of the anthem altogether from the game. Sad.

  • Jeff Peterson

    Oh and our Flag definitely defines this country. I’m guessing you never served.

  • Rob

    Thanks for this post.

  • Rob

    Protesting is American. Punishing or silencing peaceful protesters is not. It’s really that simple.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think some things deserve clarity here, most importantly the fact that the 49ers were going to release Kaepernick if he didn’t opt out of his contract. But also, I think it’s quite clear that Kaepernick drew by far the greatest attention for being ‘the player who is protesting’ in spite of the fact that several other more minor players did so. He became a lightning rod because he drew attention to himself, to the point that people who don’t even care about football at all were very much aware of him. That is not the case for any other player who participated in protests, so owners wouldn’t face nearly as much criticism in signing or retaining them.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Do you tune in to watch the national anthem or to watch the game?

  • dany

    This

    and when someone gets pissed off at either side, they’re the ones causing trouble by bringing personal opinion towards the objective world

  • Matthew Marczi

    That is a lot of qualifiers.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The flag is owned by ever US citizen regardless of whether or not they served. I don’t think that’s a fair insinuation.

  • dany

    Not true. I stood for national anthems since I was about about 17, then I realized this doesn’t matter to ME, obviously it does to others and I respect that but that doesn’t mean I have to do it too. People change, no one is bound to remain the same forever. Players, at least seemingly, are seeing things different now, so they change their behavior

  • Jaybird

    I guess it’s a good thing nobody listens to ESPN journalists anymore.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I really wouldn’t have a problem with that. I don’t think sports and nationalism/patriotism need to be inextricably intertwined. Sports should be enjoyable for everybody in the world. It’s not like the NFL or any other major sports league has any governmental affiliation and or not representing their country. This isn’t the Olympics or something.

    Besides, in a sport like football in which the majority of players are black, I could see the objection to standing for a song written by a racist whose lyrics contain racist references. Of course, you don’t have to be black to share that objection, either.

  • J Jones

    Good stuff..

  • francesco

    My fear is that some athletes use politics just to bring attention to themselves. Everyone is trying to be the next Mohamed Ali it seems. But who is greater? Mohamed Ali or those who fought in the war?

  • pittsburghjoe

    I love the depot because it lets me escape the BS produced by the major media outlets. The depot staff are entitled to their opinions, and fine ones they usually are. Watching one of their writers jump into the comment section with any kind of political slant is disappointing. I would hope this site just sticks to sports.

  • ND_Steel

    I agree that he probably shouldn’t have opted out of the contract without a solid plan B, regardless of the 49ers intent to cut him. Not sure I agree he is a system QB, he did fine last year beyond Harbaugh and his legs are his greatest asset. Denver was the obvious landing spot, as he’s proven he can get a team deep in the playoffs with help and Denver still has a very good defense. But I think it is pretty obvious he wants starter money ($15M+) when the highest paid backup makes $7M, but nobody’s talking about that, especially Camp Kaepernick because it doesn’t fit his agenda. He’s more than happy to play the victim here and prepare for his law suit.

  • ND_Steel

    Go figure…the CEO of the company has no policy in place. Just like he has no process in place for misconduct and appeals, or dealing with player safety, or simplifying the playing rules, etc. All this guy cares about is the bottom line. He will sell or say anything if it means more profit. You don’t hear talk about “protecting the shield” anymore, because it’s all about protecting the bottom line. Just sad…

  • NinjaMountie

    As a veteran I get annoyed when people don’t stand for the anthem. That’s as far as it goes. This country gives everyone the right to not stand and that’s what I fought for.
    Of course, there may be consequences and some of those consequences may have monetary impact for the owners. Because of this they may decided that some controversial players (Kaepernick) aren’t worth having around. That’s a gamble the players take when they exercise their personal liberties.
    I believe wholeheartedly in the right to peaceful protest. My big problem is that our police seem held back and these “peaceful protests” turn out to be anything but and this is a problem.
    In other words…don’t be afraid to spray some people with a fire hose!

  • NinjaMountie

    Can I post a CNN link? I think there is an article you may like.

  • ND_Steel

    Ninja, good thoughts, made me laugh with the fire hose comment for sure! As a Vet (thank you for your service), you know the policies in place of our military and our service members’ rights regarding politics, and for good reason. Given the place our sports has in society, I think they have a responsibility beyond just their athletic abilities, and that’s what bugs me about the NFL. Goodell is shirking any accountability/responsibility to have any policies in place in the work place. They can protest all they want on their own time, but during “the show”? That’s on Goodell and the owners.

  • NinjaMountie

    You make a good point about the restrictions on expressing political views by service members. However, most of these are in place because it could be construed as providing a government endorsement. That’s not the case with the NFL.
    Admittedly, I’d like to be able to watch something that doesn’t have some focus on some political agenda.
    I think Goodell does need to get a policy in place as many other private companies do not allow their employees to “protest” on company time.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    +1

  • ND_Steel

    No doubt, the restrictions on mil members serves a more pointed and important purpose. Guess what I’m saying is I don’t agree with Goodell’s “do nothing” policy…most places of business would not put up with politics in the work place, why does the NFL? And I agree with peaceful protesting and tolerating ignorance (ie. fans not standing during the anthem)…but not in the work place. And when the cameras are rolling in the stadium, they are at work. Pre- and post-game interviews…still at work (if they are required by the NFL). Otherwise, have at it. Share your personal views…that would be my policy…but the NFL obviously doesn’t have one.

  • Jaybird

    I was just making a crack at ESPN. Nothing political , just a dig at ESPN.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Post it and I’ll take a peak in the cue to make sure it goes through.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Unfortunately it’s warranted. They do so much to damage their own reputation these days that it discredits even the quality work that they do. At least Fowler is halfway decent, and respectable, from what I can discern.

  • NinjaMountie
  • Matthew Marczi

    I’m curious as to what I might have said in the comments that is so objectionable. Was it my remark that I would be fine with removing the national anthem from sports? I hope you know the history and origins of the introduction of the national anthem as a staple at sporting events essentially being a marketing ploy. Personally, I would think that the suggesting of removing the anthem from sporting events was a very much APOLITICAL viewpoint on sports, by taking a political touchstone out of the equation. Then all there is to talk about is football.

    Or perhaps it was my insinuation that I can see why black athletes might not want to sing a song or stand for a song that did not represent them?

  • Terrible Towlie

    whats so important about a game that we have to let the government interject itself by the playing of the anthem….its not like the NFL is the Olympics

  • Terrible Towlie

    the 50s are over

  • Jaybird

    At least we still got the Depot!

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well to be fair I don’t think it’s the *government* doing the interjecting. The MLB introduced the anthem as a full-time feature in the 1910s because it helped drive up attendance. The leagues do it of their own accord. But evidently they do have some sort of a relationship. You might recall a couple of years ago a bit of controversy about some NFL teams accepting (or maybe even requesting, I don’t remember) money from the armed forces in order to conduct on-field honoring of troops.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think I may have read this before, but honestly it doesn’t change my opinion. At best, Key was an opportunist, and there is debate as to what his third verse really means. I think the author is pretty selective about the evidence that he uses (although the same could also be said for certain articles I’ve read demonizing him as well). Ultimately, I don’t see it as advantageous for the national anthem, which should be inherently inclusive, should remain such a controversial song. I mean it’s not like we’re talking about justifying reading an early 20th century author whose racialist views were “a product of his time”. We’re talking about a living, breathing aural representation of our country, and I think a sound argument could be made that there are better alternatives.

  • NinjaMountie

    I wouldn’t want to change the National Anthem. There is something to be said for history and/or tradition be it good or bad. Still, I’m fully in favor of people not standing for it or even liking it.
    As far as the viability of the author. He is a published Phd in music and the history of music. He holds co-appointments with the History Dept and African American Studies. The University of Michigan isn’t exactly a bastion for conservatism, either. So, if forced, I think I’m going to believe a scholar who has spent a great deal of time researching this specific detail. I also give the same benefit of the doubt to the scientists that tell me global warming is real.
    That being said, I agree most of all with your above comment: I don’t tune into games to watch the National Anthem being sung. I think the only time I listen to it is the SB.

  • john bennett

    You don’t need to agree with me or believe what I said. But Jason Sehorn pretty much does.

  • john bennett

    Sorry Matthew, those are not qualifiers, they are statements of fact as I see it. You are free to disagree with me. I don’t see sitting out or kneeling during the National Anthem as viable means to making serious social change. I see it as outlandish and disrespectful considering where they are doing it.They have plenty of platform to do it on there own time and in there own newsrooms from the cities they represent. You want to politicize football, you might as well say it’s dead right now. You turn off the viewers and you turn off the money spigot that gives them the platform.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Take the anthem out of the game then. It wasn’t there at the beginning anyway.

  • john bennett

    And turn the fan base off and see what happens. You need to look at this with fresh eyes.

  • john bennett

    Absolutely, do what “you” want, but not on your employers dime.

  • Matthew Marczi

    They’re already being turned off by people expressing their right to protest. I also have no stake in the NFL’s profits, so I really don’t care if their ratings take a hit. It’s not like they’re going to stop playing games.