NFL to teams: 'We believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem'

The NFL sent a letter out to its 32 teams that stated the league believes players should stand for the national anthem and that it is time to move past "this controversy."

The letter, obtained by 11Alive news partner USA TODAY Sports, was sent to chief executives and presidents of teams on Tuesday from commissioner Roger Goodell. 

"The current dispute over the National Anthem is threatening to erode the unifying power of our game, and is now dividing us, and our players, from many fans across the country," the letter stated. 

Goodell commended players who have worked to "listen, understand and attempt to address the underlying issues within their communities." The league listened to players at the September meetings, and they explained the importance of the issues to the league's owners.

"Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players," the letter read.

The league plans to address the protests and review a plan regarding the anthem and promoting change at the league's meetings in New York next week. The goal is to have an open discussion on the issues and find a way for the league to have a unified approach, according to the letter.

During a conference call on Tuesday, NFL vice president of communications Joe Lockhart said the owners will look at the NFL's guidelines for the anthem.

“The important point here is the owners are gathering next week for our fall meetings next week in New York,” Lockhart said. “They will have a chance, all of them, to discuss this issue, to look at the policy and look at ideas if there is a need to change the policies. But we will have the 32 owners here next week and I fully expect this to be front and center on the agenda.”

The national anthem has been a controversial issue over the last year since former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat and then kneeled during the anthem to protest racial injustice. The protests continued this season when President Donald Trump said that any players who don't stand for the anthem should be fired.

Last Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence left the San Francisco 49ers vs. Indianapolis Colts game after players knelt during the anthem. Dallas owner Jerry Jones said this week any player that "disrespects the flag" will not play.

Only two Atlanta Falcons players have knelt during the national anthem. Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett knelt before the team's game against the Detroit Lions. After that game, everyone on the team has stood during the anthem.

On Monday, head coach Dan Quinn said the team has decided to stand with their arms linked moving forward. The team held a roughly 90-minute meeting last week with outside consultants to try and find a way to move from "protest to progress."

"For us in the anthem, we’ll stand. We like where we locked arms. [There was] no policy that was written or no policy that was spoken about, but more one that was really based on the heart of brotherhood to say, ‘What we do, we’ll do it together.’ That’s what came out of our meeting last week," Quinn said.

PHOTOS | Falcons during the national anthem at Detroit

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