NFL players will be fined if they kneel during national anthem, new league policy says
Barring San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York, who abstained from the voting process, the vote was unanimous among all owners.
According to a new mandate ordered by NFL owners, players are required to stand for the national anthem if they are on the field while it is being played. However, the announcement on Wednesday gives them the option to stay in the locker room if they prefer to kneel down.
The new policy dictates that any player or other team personnel who does not show respect for the anthem should be penalized. That means any attempt to sit or kneel would make them liable for a fine issued by their team. Dozens of players have knelt to protest police brutality and racial inequality in the past two seasons.
"We want people to be respectful of the national anthem," commissioner Roger Goodell said. "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. [But] we were also very sensitive to give players choices."
Barring San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York, who said he abstained from the voting process, Goodell informed that the vote was unanimous among all owners. The policy, supported by the owners, is not subject to collective bargaining as it is going to be a part of the NFL's game operations manual, reported BBC.
That being said, a statement was released by the NFL Players Association saying that it will review the new policy and "challenge any aspect" that is not in line with NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement.
It is still unclear as to what the players would be fined in specificity along with the definition of "respect for the national flag" according to the league.
"To make a decision that strong, you would hope that the players have input on it," Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. "But obviously not. So we have to deal with it as players, for good or a bad thing.
"I think the main thing out of all of it is that each ballclub is having open communication with the players and ownership about the issues that are going on in the community and trying to change it."
On Wednesday, DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFLPA, unleashed a series of tweets voicing his displeasure with the new policy approval.
"History has taught us that both patriotism and protest are like water; if the force is strong enough it cannot be suppressed. Today, the CEO's of the NFL created a rule that people who hate autocracies should reject," Smith tweeted.
"Management has chosen to quash the same freedom of speech that protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to prevent someone who does not wish to do so. The sad irony of this rule is that anyone who wants to express their patriotism is subject to the whim of a person who calls himself an "Owner." I know that not all of the NFL CEO's are for this and I know that true American patriots are not cheering today."
Team owners spent months having discussions on the issue and another three hours over two days at the league's spring meetings. Finally, they arrived at a compromise with an official order that would end sitting or kneeling and require every player to stand during the anthem.
According to the previous policy, players were only required to be on the field for the performance of the anthem but did not make it compulsory to stand for it. In 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in protest and the league could do nothing about it as there was no guideline to prevent it.
President Donald Trump was the first to criticize the movement followed by scores of fans of the game who said that it was a sign of disrespect towards our flag and our sovereignty.Back then, owners were divided on how to detach the league from the criticism. However, some owners wanted all players to stand no matter what happened, including the Houston Texans' Bob McNair and the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones.
According to Mark Murphy, the Green Bay Packers' president/CEO, the league finalized an $89 million social justice platform earlier this week with players to help address "some of the underlying issues" that were being protested.
"I think we learned from each other in order to come to a unanimous consensus," Murphy said. "We also talked a lot about our players. I think when you look back at last fall, it was difficult for all of us within the league. But one of the positives that came out of it was an improved relationship with our players."
Goodell said in a statement that the league wanted to wash out criticism that suggested that the protests were perfidious.
"It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic," Goodell said. "This is not and was never the case.
After being unable to find jobs as free agents, former 49ers safety Eric Reid and Kaepernick filed collusion cases against the NFL.
Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles is one among a handful of outspoken players who vowed to carry on the "cause".
"I will not let it silence me or stop me from fighting," he said. "This has never been about taking a knee, raising a fist or anyone's patriotism, but doing what we can to effect real change for real people."
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump praised the owners for doing the "right thing," and suggested those who don't stand maybe "shouldn't be in the country."
"You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem and the NFL owners did the right thing if that's what they've done. You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem or you shouldn't be playing. You shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country," Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday morning.