NFL passes new anthem policy

May 23, 2018, 9:58 AM | Updated: 10:26 am
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league's anthem policy was passed unanimously. (AP)

The National Football League Wednesday adopted a new policy that eliminates the requirement that players be on the field for the national anthem, but imposes a fine on clubs should players who are on the field choose to kneel.

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The policy was unanimously approved by NFL owners, gathered today in Atlanta for the annual spring meeting.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement the emphasized the league’s “ongoing commitment to local communities and our country”:

“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.”

While the final approved policy was less severe than a previously-proposed rule, the owners’ decision was nonetheless a controversial one. In part because the league is in the midst of a collusion case filed by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the anthem as a form of silent, peaceful protest against racism and inequality in 2016, has pointed to his political protests as the reason behind his unemployment. The protest drew both criticism and support, and gained widespread attention over the course of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. By the close of 2018, a number of NFL players – and people across the country – had joined the protest (with Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Jeremy Lane being notable local participants).

The NFL Players’ Association said in a statement that it was not consulted on the policy, and will review and challenge any aspect that is “inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

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NFL passes new anthem policy