The National Football League announced today it will fine players who do not stand and “show respect for the flag and the anthem.” Players will have the option of staying in the locker room during the The National Anthem, but if they are on the field and take a knee they will be punished.
“It is unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement accompanying today’s new policy.
Individual clubs can dole out their own rules, provided those rules are in line with the league’s, according to the policy.
The anthem debate began when Colin Kaepernick, then quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand for the anthem in protest of unchecked police brutality throughout the United States during the 2016 season. It was U.S. Army vet and former Green Beret Nick Boyer who convinced him to take a knee out of respect.
Kaepernick’s actions sparked controversy and claims of anti-patriotism, including criticism from Donald Trump, who called his actions “disgraceful,” and said that the NFL should fire any player who doesn’t stand for the anthem.
Trump said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) was not consulted before the NFL issued its new anthem policy. The NFLPA released a statement that said: “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 Chariman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mata about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.”
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has a similar policy requiring players and staff to stand during the the National Anthem, but the NBA has been openly vocal against police brutality and other injustices and even encourages its players and coaches to speak out.
Greg Popovich, Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy have been among the most outspoken on issues of race and brutality and players Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul have used their platforms to speak out.