New NFL policy bans players from kneeling during national anthem

Matt Saintsing
May 23, 2018 - 1:10 pm

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

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The owners of NFL teams agreed to a new policy Wednesday, for what players can and can’t do during the playing of the national anthem, an issue that spiraled into a national debate last season.

League commissioner Roger Goodell said that owners voted to fine their teams if players are present on the field, or sidelines, and choose to kneel during the national anthem. Players will, however, be allowed to stay in the locker room—they had previously been required to be on the field when the anthem plays.

“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” Goodell said in a statement. “Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stand in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.”

The new policy came out of the league’s spring meeting in Atlanta, Ga. without the input from the players’ union.

The American Legion, the nation's largest veterans organization lauded the decision "establishing official policy on team etiquette during the playing of our National Anthem,” said Denise Rohan, national commander of the American Legion. "While the issues that led to the controversy remain and deserve continued national dialogue, we hope that all Americans would stand united as one under our national symbol. Our flag and anthem belong to all Americans." 

She added that the country needs to work with eachother "to resolve our differences." 

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, spawned a national conversation when he began kneeling during the Star-Spangled Banner to protest racism and deadly police force. Shortly after, several of his teammates and dozens of other players throughout the league joined him, with the protests extending into the 2017 season.

The reaction was mixed. Some fans express no issue with the protests, while others were quite critical of the actions, claiming the kneeling players were disrespecting the country, the flag, and veterans.

Even President Donald Trump weighed in last September when he tweeted, “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!”

“The efforts of many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed,” added Goodell.

“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case."

According to the new policy, “a club will be fined by the league if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.” It’s unclear how much the fine would be.

The NFL Players Association released a statement saying, "Our union will review the new 'policy' and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargainiang agreement." 

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