Roger Goodell was not definitive when asked to describe his meetings with NFL players and owners this week, in a press conference outside NFL headquarters today, heard and seen on CNBC. Of course, the meetings centered on the continuing controversy over approximately a dozen NFL players kneeling in protest during the playing of the National Anthem. The commissioner did clearly say that it was his wish that all players stand during the playing of the national anthem. The conversations were described by Goodell as constructive and cooperative. He was reticent to say that any gauntlet had been laid down regarding the players standing for the flag and national anthem, but he did relay that all parties understood the issues at hand.

The NFL players that initially knelt or sat during the anthem ceremony before games numbered somewhere around a dozen, Goodell said.

Roger Goodell tough to pin down

Reporters who wanted to get right to the point did not get concrete answers to some of their pressing questions. When asked if the NFL or its owners would parse out consequences to players for not standing in the future, the answer was not clear. Goodell harped on the spirit of understanding, listening, and cooperation that existed between players, owners, and the league. He mentioned, when pressed, that the players want changes to the criminal justice system, from encounters with police to the handling of bail and bonds. The NFL commissioner said over and over that all parties were interested in resolving the protest issue.

It was clear that the NFL, its owners, and sponsors did not want the players to continue to protest. As heard on CNBC, Roger Goodell vaguely alluded to the possibility that the sponsors may be part of the solution. This was mentioned when Goodell was questioned as to what advertisers would do if the protests continued.

The NFL and the owners want all players to stand for the national anthem

As a means of gaining a better understanding of the players' experiences (direct or indirect) with law enforcement, Goodall said more than once that ride alongs may be a means of research and understanding. When asked directly whether owners would sit any player for not standing, Goodell was evasive.

The impression given was that nothing in the way of punitive consequences or firm rule-setting was discussed.

The job of the NFL offices is to arbitrate with listening and cooperation. The willingness to get out in communities to see what players are talking about may be important. On another front, convincing the sponsors to stay with NFL games may depend on the salesmanship of Roger Goodell. To be clear, the sponsors will stay where the eyeballs are. That is their only motivation for the millions they spend on TV ads and promotions during NFL games. For the NFL players, they will need to decide how much progress is necessary for them to comply with the wishes of all other parties involved, including the fans.