Atlanta, Ga. (USA Today) — Amid repeated protests during the playing of the national anthem over the past two seasons, the NFL on Wednesday passed a revised policy that mandates players and team personnel present on the sideline “shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”
The revision allows players who would not wish to stand to remain in the locker room. Also under the revision, each franchise will have the power to issue their own policies, which could include fines for players protesting the anthem, under the conduct detrimental provision of the league’s personal conduct policy.
The league also now has the power to fine any franchise that has representatives who do not stand or “show respect” while present on the sideline for the anthem.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the agreement was reached unanimously by owners at the league meeting in Atlanta, but Jed York of the 49ers said his team abstained.
“We want people to be respectful to the national anthem,” Goodell said in a news conference. “We want people to stand. That’s all personnel, and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That’s something we think we owe. We have been very sensitive in making sure we give players choices, but we do believe that that moment is important and one we are going to focus on.”
Several players last season followed in the footsteps of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who in the previous year chose to kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest against police brutality and racial inequality. By the start of the 2017 season, there were only a handful of protests during the anthem. Then, in a September rally, President Trump referred to a player who protested social injustice by kneeling during the national anthem as “son of a (expletive).” Many teams and players responded by participating in demonstrations that featured kneeling or standing with arms locked.
“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic,” Goodell said in a written statement that announced the revision. “This is not and was never the case.”
The NFL Players Association has already taken issue with the policy, which was reached without the union present.
“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy,’ ” the NFLPA said in a statement. “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 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 new policy reads in full below:
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.
Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today contributed to this report.