The debate over NFL player protests during the national anthem has become so big within the league that it has delayed the completion of commissioner Roger Goodell's contract extension, league sources told ESPN.
Goodell's deal is still expected to be completed and has been papered, sources told ESPN, but the process has been slowed while the overwhelming majority of the NFL's attention has been diverted to handling the anthem issue, which has affected TV ratings, merchandise sales and the country's feelings about football.
Had the issue not existed, Goodell's contract might have been completed at last week's owners meeting in New York, sources said. However, because the issue has become so critical to the league, the NFL's compensation committee spent about only 20 minutes Wednesday discussing Goodell's extension, with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank leading those talks, sources told ESPN.
The committee still insists Goodell's deal will be completed, but there is other business that currently is more pressing.
"The anthem issue has overridden everything -- and I do mean everything," one source told ESPN.
The focus on the issue has overshadowed other league business as well.
At last week's meetings, owners discussed making a dramatic shift from paper game tickets to all-digital ticketing, which will be in place for the 2018 season, sources told ESPN. The NFL also announced the 2018 draft would be held in Dallas, which will host the first draft held inside a stadium. Neither topic received as much attention as the anthem issue.