The National Football League will fine teams if players on the field refuse to stand for the national anthem, the league said on Wednesday in a victory for U.S. President Donald Trump, who loudly demanded an end to such protests past year.
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. It is uncertain whether a player who stands and raises a fist or performs some other demonstration during the anthem would lead to fines.
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".
With the elimination of the rule requiring players to take the field for the national anthem, teams will have the ability to set their own policies, including the ability to discipline a player for any protest during the anthem.
Goodell said the league is still committed to working with players to "advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society".
The NFL agreed last fall to invest almost $100 million into social justice causes and to work with the Players Coalition, a group formed by Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin. "And I think the more that we can get that message out and understand what they're fighting for and why they're fighting for it, the easier that it's gonna be to make progress".
The new policy says players must "show respect" as they stand, but not does not silence them completely.
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The new policy doesn't ensure that players will stand during the anthem, and should they kneel, the fines given to the offending player's team will no doubt generate yet another cycle of news surrounding the matter.
The decision was announced Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the league's spring meeting in Atlanta. 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 new rule will be included in the NFL's game operations manual, which means it is not subject to collective bargaining.
The league's decision goes against what the NFL had told players "about the principles, values and patriotism of our league", the union said, adding that it will review the policy with an eye toward mounting challenges if elements of it contradict the current contract.
President Trump turned the anthem protests into a campaign issue, saying the National Football League should fire any player who takes a knee during "The Star-Spangled Banner". He refused to stand for the anthem in protest of the treatment of African-Americans in the U.S. Kaepernick was out of the league last season and he and Reid have pending grievances accusing the league and teams of colluding to keep them unsigned.