The N.F.L. now has an official rule prohibiting players from kneeling during national anthem ceremonies, according to a new agreement signed by team owners on Wednesday.
“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” league commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.”
Under the new policy, the teams of players who kneel will be issued fines by the league. Additionally, teams may opt to issue fines to their own kneeling players. The policy also removes an old rule in the Game Operations Manual that requires players to be present on the field during national anthem ceremonies.
Here’s Goodell’s full statement:
“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. 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.”
Members of the Houston Texans kneeling during the national anthem. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
The national anthem controversy began in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during a ceremony before a game in an effort to draw awareness to police brutality. Dozens of players followed suit in the months that followed, creating somewhat of a culture war between fans, owners, and players who fell on two broad sides of the issue: those who were offended by the perceived disrespect for the flag and military, and those who felt kneeling was an appropriate way to express dissatisfaction about social injustice.
In September 2017, President Donald Trump weighed in on this issue in no uncertain terms.
Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
Since leaving the 49ers, Kaepernick hasn’t found a job with any other team, prompting him to file a grievance with the league alleging that owners colluded against him.
The N.F.L. Players Association, a union that represents and negotiates for players, said in a statement that it wasn’t consulted on the new policy, and “will challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.
The Onion also chimed in on the news with the headline “New NFL Policy Requires All Players To Honor Patriotic Spirit Of Subservience That American Flag Represents”.
The 2018 N.F.L. season is set to begin September 6.