By Keith Ayers |
ATLANTA – National Football League (NFL) team owners meeting in Atlanta today unanimously approved a new policy requiring players to stand for the National Anthem or remain in the locker room.
The action was directed at addressing the ongoing controversy over players kneeling in protest during the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
“The policy adopted today was approved in concert with the NFL’s ongoing commitment to local communities and our country — one that is extraordinary in its scope, resources, and alignment with our players,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.
“We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.
“The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed. The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We are honored to work with our players to drive progress.
“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.
“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.
“We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our fans who enjoy it.”
The NFL owners issued this policy statement related to Wednesday’s actions:
“The 32 member clubs of the National Football League have reaffirmed their strong commitment to work alongside our players to strengthen our communities and advance social justice. The unique platform that we have created is unprecedented in its scope, and will provide extraordinary resources in support of programs to promote positive social change in our communities.
“The membership also strongly believes that:
“1. All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
“2. The Game Operations Manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the anthem.
“3. Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the anthem has been performed.
“4. 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.
“5. Each club may develop its own work rules, consistent with the above principles, regarding its personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
“6. The commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.”
The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) issued the following statement Wednesday in response to the ruling:
“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy.’ NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.
“The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara (co-owner of the New York Giants) about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.
“Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”
The controversy began in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, then quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, began kneeling during the National Anthem in protest amid national tension over charges of police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system. The protests continued into the 2017 season and involved other players around the league.
As the situation has continued, the NFL has seen a drop in demand for game tickets, lower television ratings and decreased advertising revenue.
By Keith Ayers
Keith Ayers is the Director of Communications at the United States Sports Academy.