The issues have been “overtaken by political forces,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Thursday, referring to
To that end, Commissioner
More than 200 players either knelt or used other means as expressions of unity last weekend. Lockhart said such actions are not a protest against the anthem or the flag.
"One of the impacts is to distort the views of the NFL and particularly our players," Lockhart said.
Trump said NFL owners fear their players, and he renewed calls for action against those who kneel during the anthem.
"I think they are afraid of their players, if you want to know the truth, and I think it's disgraceful," he said in an interview that aired Thursday on "Fox and Friends." He says "most people agree" with him.
The players knelt last weekend in response to social injustice. Full teams, along with some team owners, linked arms either before or during the anthem. Three teams — Pittsburgh, Seattle and Tennessee — did not take the field until after the anthem.
Before the start of Thursday night's game between Green Bay and Chicago, Packers players released a statement this week saying they would intertwine arms before the game as a show of unity. They asked fans to join in the stands and at home, though it didn't appear that many fans locked arms. Many people in the crowd held up small flags during and after the anthem, some chanting "USA! USA!"
"They are under attack now and the (original) lesson has been forgotten," Lockhart said. "It is important for everyone to understand what they are talking about, to not see everything in terms of who is up or down politically.
"The NFL players are men of character, many of whom are leaders in their community. They are patriotic, support the military. They understand their platform can be used to make the country a better place."
Lockhart insisted there will be no "leaguewide directive" for future demonstrations.
Casillas said the group talked about what to do to move forward and how to approach the "whole kneeling situation."
"It was a whole bunch of opinions shared," Casillas said. "There was nothing we decided we're going to do collectively. I think it was a very conducive meeting."
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the gathering was one of the many conversations that have happened this week within the NFL.