Today the NFL owners got together and decided the keep the protesting NFL players out of the public eye. The new policy will require that all players on the field stand for the National Anthem, adding that players who do not wish to stand are to stay in the locker room.
The past couple seasons, several players around the league have kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem in protest of racial profiling and bias in the criminal justice system.
This led to the man holding the office of the presidency at an Alabama rally to attack the kneeling players and scream that the NFL “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!”
That display calling for NFL players to be silenced or have their employment terminated naturally drew backlash from players across the league, including the Raiders, who were in Washington that week and had most of the team sit on the bench with arms locked during the anthem.
Before and after that league-wide demonstration, most teams had a handful of players who sat or kneeled for the National Anthem. Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch chose simply not to stand. He is a man of few words with regard to the media and certainly will not make any verbal political statements, but he’s not one for forced patriotism.
In the new policy, the league is putting it to individual teams as to how they choose to handle it, but the league will enforce the US Department of Defense’s investment in them via a fine to the club should a player be caught kneeling or sitting during the National Anthem.
Here is the full memo put out by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:
The NFLPA had a quick response to this decision by the NFL owners, putting the word “policy” in quotation marks and vowing to “challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”
This is being touted by some as a compromise, but NFLPA Assistant Executive Director for External Affairs doesn’t see it that way.
Maybe this new rule proposal that is being voted on is a "compromise" between the NFL office and club CEOs on various sides of the issue, but certainly not with player leadership; we weren't there or part of the discussions.— George Atallah (@GeorgeAtallah) May 23, 2018
Many in the media had some strong reactions to the new rule as well.
When you penalize someone for declining to participate in a display of so-called patriotism, you make that display meaningless.— Rafael Olmeda (@rolmeda) May 23, 2018
A forced display of patriotism is not a display of patriotism. It is a display of force. @NFL
Perhaps the best solution would be to change nothing. The players who demonstrated during the anthem did so because it was an impactful way to call attention to their beliefs. As that impact lessens, players will choose other avenues—as they already are.— Jenny Vrentas (@JennyVrentas) May 23, 2018
A compromise implies there were negotiations and the sides met in the middle. That might be the case among owners, but leaving players out of protest policy discussion is a major mistake.— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) May 23, 2018
My understanding is that teams could claim conduct detrimental if a player demonstrates, but it’s also understood that the Players Association could seek to challenge that.— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) May 23, 2018
Cowboys COO Stephen Jones said NFL hasn’t worked out a specific fine schedule for the anthem policy. Asked what constitutes disrespect, said he believes you’ll know it when you see it.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) May 23, 2018
“You’ll know it when you see it” apparently includes a lot more than kneeling.
Art Rooney of the Steelers said while it was not defined, he believes that raising a fist and linking arms during the playing of the anthem also would constitute disrespect of the anthem.— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) May 23, 2018
Suffice to say, there will be lawyers.