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Free speech activist: NFL, NFLPA meetings a ‘rejection’ of Trump’s divisiveness

Indications from Tuesday’s meeting between NFL owners, players, executives and NFL Players Association personnel are that all sides identified “common issues” and engaged in “productive” conversation about how to “work together to promote positive social change and address inequality” in the wake of peaceful protests across professional sports.

The meeting, which came a day after reports that the NFL would formally endorse criminal justice legislation and finance a social activism boot camp, marked a “coming together,” according to the league and NFLPA. NFL Network’s Judy Battista suggested the dialogue Tuesday in New York was the “best communication [there] has ever been between players and owners.”

And ESPN’s Jim Trotter reported that NFL owners expressed “unconditional” support to work with players in addressing social issues, “meaning there was no demand by owners that players stop kneeling” in protest during pregame national anthems.

What the meeting also signified, according to Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America, a New York City-based organization centered on defending free speech and persecuted journalists, was a rebuke of commentary on the situation by President Donald Trump.

“The overall thrust is the players and owners are working together, and they’re not at odds,” Nossel told after Tuesday’s meeting. “I read that as a rejection of the president trying to paint these protests as unpatriotic.”

It’s a sentiment echoed in a joint statement by the NFL and NFLPA, who said the “NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military” — something Trump has repeatedly, both in public and in tweets directed at the league, accused the NFL and its protesting players of lacking.

Nossel, whose organization partnered with Rise and Resist to back the “Take a Knee” protests held outside Conrad Hotel, Tuesday’s meeting location, said…

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