Mark Herzlich said Tuesday’s meeting with NFL owners and representatives from the NFL Players Association was convened to determine the next step in the league’s place in social activism.
“The kneeling has brought attention to this topic, and it’s a peaceful way of doing that,” Herzlich said of players who demonstrate during the national anthem to protest injustices. “Now let’s figure out how we can take that next step whether it is looking at the legal system to see if there is a way we can make changes to help protect our citizens and our players or whatever that message is, we need to do it relatively soon.”
Herzlich, who spoke in the Giants locker room on Wednesday, was one of several current players at the meeting that was also attended by Giants co-owner John Mara as well as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA president Eric Winston, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Steelers owner Art Rooney. Herzlich said those conversations will continue.
“Everybody is trying to get on the same page and be proactive about what is going on in this league,” Herzlich said. “We’re trying to work together to get a solution and see how we can help all sides . . . It’ll be ongoing talks. It’s not like we’ll reconvene in a month. We’ll talk about it continuously.”
One of the main topics of discussion, Herzlich said, was figuring out a way to get the intent of the protests to be front and center rather than the unintended perception that has been attached to them.
“I don’t think it’s as much stand or kneel, sit or stand, it’s about portraying the message clearly and getting the point across that the players would like to get across,” he said. “It’s not about anti-America, anti-flag. It’s a more poignant message of unity and anti-racism. It’s how can we get that message across clearly as players and as owners.
“Having the message be viewed as being disrespectful to the country is something that has occurred and was not intended,” Herzlich added. “We need to make sure that the intent is displayed properly from our point of view as players. The owners are helping with that. The last thing we want to do as players is to offend our fans or let them think that we are disrespecting them in any way because that’s not the purpose. However we can work together to get the message out clearly and respectfully, that’s the goal.”
The NFL and the union currently have their horns locked over a number of issues and their relationship is adversarial on money topics. That they have come together on this matter speaks to the importance that both sides are giving it.
“I don’t think this is an issue that is union versus league,” Herzlich said. “I think everyone wants to be able to encourage players to use their platform in a positive way. We don’t want to be divisive. The owners don’t want to be divisive. We want to come together and see how we can get the message across that the players want to get across. That really is to end racism in this country and to bring unity.”