SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ NFL insider Lindsay H. Jones explains why NFL ratings were up in Week 3 despite President Trump’s open criticism of players kneeling for the national anthem.

Carolina Panthers players met with Jerry Richardson on Tuesday, a day after the team owner issued a statement that didn’t specifically address President Trump’s comments toward the NFL and the league’s players.

“Mr. Richardson invited captains and other team leaders to his home this afternoon, as he often does. They discussed social issues affected the League and solutions moving forward,” the team said in a statement. “As always, the conversations between Mr. Richardson and the players will remain private.”

Panthers players are frustrated by restrictions put in place by Richardson that could put them at risk of some form of punishment if they were to publicly address social issues, according to The Charlotte Observer.

“Politicizing the game is damaging and takes the focus off the greatness of the game itself and those who played it,” Richardson said in a statement on Monday.

More: Donald Trump calls for NFL to create rule mandating players stand for national anthem

More: Pat Tillman’s widow: Don’t politicize Pat in effort to divide

The Panthers were one of just two organizations (including the Dallas Cowboys, who did not play until Monday) that did not release a statement Sunday in response to Trump calling for players who take a knee — a protest started to call attention to racial inequality and police brutality — to be fired. Trump has continued to take aim at the NFL the last several days on Twitter. 

“I think he was trying to find a way to do it the right way,” Rivera told reporters on Monday. “I think he was trying to make sure that everybody understood that he has a tremendous amount of respect for what the flag stands for, for the military personnel and for the first responders.”

Defensive end Julius Peppers was the only player to remain in the locker room for the national anthem while the rest of the team stood on the field before a 34-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

PHOTOS: NFL players’ protests


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