NFL owners issued a new policy earlier this week, requiring players and team personnel to stand during the National Anthem. This ruling is in response to controversy last season in which some players chose to kneel instead of stand to protest cases of systemic oppression.
According to ESPN, the new policy mandates players ad personnel to stand during the anthem “if they are on the field during the performance,” but allows them “the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer.”
The policy subjects teams to a fine if a player or any other team personnel do not show respect for the anthem. That includes any attempt to sit or kneel, as dozens of players have done during the past two seasons to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Those teams also will have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction.
President Trump responded with support for the NFL’s decision to ban kneeling, saying on Fox & Friends that “I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. 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 also said he doesn’t feel responsible for the new NFL policy, noting that he thought it was the American people who pressed the league to make the new rule.
This isn’t the first time Trump has criticized NFL players kneeling during the anthem. In September 2017, Trump asked at a rally in Alabama, “wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a b—– off the field right now’?”
According to a statement released by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the league acknowledged that kneeling players have been effective in alerting the public to social issues, noting that “the efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed.”
Goodell also stated that “we want people to be respectful of the national anthem…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.”
The vote was unanimous among owners.
Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long rebuked the new rule, claiming that it was based in fear:
New York Jets chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson has reportedly balked at the new policy; according to a report from Newsday, Johnson told the publication that “his players are free to take a knee or perform some other protest without fear of repercussion from the team.”
“If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players,” Johnson said. “I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines. I don’t want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won’t. There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”