The three other teams featured on that list — the Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders — have at least had some success over recent years. This year, the Jaguars are 8-4 with a share of the AFC South Division lead and boast the league’s top passing defense. The 49ers made the playoffs each year from 2011 to 2013, including a Super Bowl appearance in 2012. The Raiders were a playoff team last season and are in a three-way tie for the AFC West lead.
“We believe everyone should stand for the national anthem,” Goodell said. “That’s an important part of our policy. It’s also an important part of our game that we all take great pride in. And it’s also important for us to honor our flag and our country, and we think our fans expect us to do that.”
Asked how he responds to such fans, Mara said: “I respond to them by saying that I prefer that our players stand. I’ve asked our players to stand. I think we’re down to one player who has continued to kneel. But at the end of the day, this is America and we do have a thing called the First Amendment. And it’s a right of free speech and a right to protest. That’s one of the things our forefathers fought and died for, and that continues to be a principle that’s very important to most of us.”
Goodell said he has had no direct communication with Trump on the issue. He acknowledged that the anger by many fans has made the league’s handling of the matter a key issue to sponsors and those networks that televise NFL games. Goodell cited “six or seven” NFL players continuing to participate in protests during the anthem.
The Jaguars forced every other QB they faced this season into key mistakes or bad throws. Brady, even under heavy duress throwing into tight windows, didn’t allow the Jaguars to sniff an interception, even as he was struggling with connections for three quarters.
The Patriots had only one third-down conversion before Brady threw a deep-middle strike to Danny Amendola on third-and-18 to get the comeback into gear at the 10:49 mark. He followed that with a flea-flicker bullet down the sideline to little-used fourth wideout Phillip Dorsett for another 31 yards.
Papa John’s is the highest profile sponsor to publicly pressure the NFL to resolve the protests, a move some experts say could pave the way for others to do the same. Most sponsors have remained silent on the issue, at least in public, or released statements supporting players’ free speech rights as well as touting their companies’ respect for the flag.