AUSTIN (KXAN/AP) — The NFL says starting this season, every team and its league personnel on the field must stand and “show respect for the flag and Anthem” or risk getting a fine by the league.
The NFL made the policy changes Wednesday and issued a statement from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell saying, “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.”
The new policy states players who do not want to stand for the national anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed. The policy was revised to remove the requirement that all players must be on the field during that time. If a player is on the field and doesn’t stand, the club will be fined.
The NFL says all 32 clubs must comply but they can develop their own work rules. The commissioner will impose “appropriate discipline” for people who do not comply.
The new policy comes after NFL team owners discussed the issue during Tuesday’s annual spring meeting.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system. Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to land a job with another team.
President Trump turned the anthem protests into a campaign issue, saying the NFL should fire any player who takes a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“We know our fans want us to zero in on football, and they don’t want to think about or think that we’re thinking about anything other than football,” said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Tuesday.
The NFL was reportedly considering whether to assess a 15-yard penalty against any player who takes a knee or conducts any other protest during the anthem. Another possible option would be to change up the pregame routine, keeping teams in their respective locker rooms until after the anthem has played.