This story appears in ESPN The Magazine’s Nov. 13 issue. Subscribe today! NOBODY KNEW WHERE to sit. Side by side or across from one another? It was the final question raised by a group of 11 NFL team owners as they mingled inside the sixth-floor conference room at the league’s Park Avenue headquarters in New York City, minutes before they were to meet with a group of 12 players, one former player and three union leaders on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 17. The day already had been stressful, and the meeting hadn’t even started. League executives had spent that morning as they had the previous four weeks: grappling with a series of events the league and owners could not control, unleashed by President Donald Trump’s harsh criticism of the decision by a handful of players to kneel during the national anthem. Morale was bad inside the league office, and the pressure was not letting up. There was the looming notion that sponsors…

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