The NFL owners aren’t going to stand for their players kneeling next season. The league announced today that all players and league personnel on the sidelines must stand for the national anthem or face a fine on their teams.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said, however, that they have the option to remain in the locker room if they don’t want to stand for “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,” Goodell said in a statement. “We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.” Read his full statement about the new policy below.
“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic,” he said today. “This is not and was never the case.”
This play by the league against the social justice protests comes after a season of noticeably declining ratings for pro football across all networks. The kneeling fine also comes before the revamping and ratings conscious FOX begins its five-year airing of Thursday Night Football. The Murdoch owned net sealed the big bucks deal in January. FOX grabbed the late week NFL offerings from NBC and CBS for 11 games. The NFL Network will show seven games next season on Thursdays.
President Donald Trump publicly called out the league and its players for their protests last season, saying he was “ashamed” that players took a knee during the anthem and suggesting during one rally that owners expel those who do so. He told a crowd that if the league’s owners had a player who protested, they should “get that son of a bitch off the field right now!” Expect a victory-lap tweet from him in 3 … 2 …
Speaking of tweets, the NFL Players Association used the social media platform today to note that it wasn’t consulted about the new rule before the owners voted it in:
The protests began during the 2016 NFL preseason, when Colin Kaepernick — then the starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers — took a knee during the playing of the national anthem. He said at the time that he was ready for potential backlash for his support of African-Americans and other minorities, who he said were being oppressed by the powers that be in America.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he said in late August 2016. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
His comments came after some high-profile killings of unarmed black men at the hands of police.
Here is Goodell’s full statement about the league’s new anti-kneeling policy:
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.
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.
Deadline’s Dominic Patten contributed to this report