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NFL Disputes Trump Claim Players Will Be Required to Stand for Anthem

FILE - President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, Oct. 10, 2017, in Washington.
FILE - President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, Oct. 10, 2017, in Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell has decided to support his demand that all players stand during the national anthem, a comment that apparently prompted the NFL to describe it as "not accurate."

"It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem-RESPECT OUR COUNTRY," Trump said on Twitter.

But in apparent response to Trump's remark, the NFL issued a statement saying the comment was not correct.

"Commentary this morning about the commissioner’s position on the Anthem is not accurate. As we said yesterday, there will be a discussion of these issues at the owners meeting next week."

"The NFL is doing the hard work of trying to move from protest to progress, working to bring people together," the statement added. The NFL also said Goodell met Tuesday with Miami Dolphins players and law enforcement and community leaders to witness "first-hand the outstanding work our players and clubs are doing to strengthen their communities."

Team owners and players from around the league will meet in New York next week to determine what to do about the pre-game anthem gestures.

Trump has been waging a verbal war against more than 200 NFL players, most of them black, who at recent games have knelt during the playing of the national anthem to protest racism in the U.S. and what they see as law enforcement agencies' disparate treatment of minorities compared to that of whites.

While league officials would soon discuss the national anthem protests, Goodell made it clear in a letter to all 32 teams that the league wants players to stand as the anthem is played. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said the White House would support such a requirement, if the league imposes it.

Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game Sunday in his home state of Indiana after about a dozen San Francisco 49er players took a knee while the Star Spangled Banner was played before a game with the Indianapolis Colts.

Pence said he left the game because he said Trump "and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem."

Later, Trump tweeted that he had asked Pence "to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and the second lady," (Karen Pence.)

The NFL has said the protesting players are entitled to exercise their constitutional right of freedom of speech. But one prominent team owner, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, has announced that any of his players who kneel during the national anthem will be benched and kept out of the team's games.

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