Image Credits: AP Photo
With football preseason looming around the corner, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement saying that NFL “team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” The rule change comes after a long, controversial battle between the players, the NFL, and football enthusiasts. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick gained national attention in 2016 for refusing to stand during the National Anthem at the beginning of NFL games. Kaepernick described his behavior as protesting the “wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States.” His protests were applauded by some and criticized by others; however, 2016 was the last season that Kaepernick appeared in an NFL football game. He opted out of his contract with the 49ers and became a free agent during the 2017 league year. He has yet to get picked up by any other teams.
Despite Kaepernick’s departure, players from almost every NFL team continued to kneel during the National Anthem throughout the 2017 season. Players expressed a desire to protest racial injustice and show solidarity with fellow teammates. Backlash from the protests also continued as the NFL experienced a downturn in ratings. A CNN poll found that 49 percent of Americans believe players are doing the wrong thing by kneeling during the anthem while 43 percent believe they are doing the right thing. A separate Marist poll found that half of Americans say it is disrespectful to kneel during the anthem whereas 46 percent believes the athletes are exercising the freedoms that the anthem expresses. When asked whether players should be required to stand for the anthem, 49 percent of CNN poll respondents said yes and 47 percent said no. When polled by Marist, most Americans believe professional athletes should be required to stand for the national anthem, but 43 percent disagree. Although public opinion is closely divided, the general consensus is that players should not kneel for the anthem and should be required to stand.
The new policies laid out by the NFL are seemingly a direct response to public opinion and personal interest.
If players are on the field while the anthem is being played, they will be required to stand.
Players who do not wish to stand for the anthem will be allowed to stay in the locker room until after the anthem is performed.
Teams will be fined by the NFL if their personnel are on the field and do not stand during the anthem.
The NFL Commissioner will impose “appropriate discipline on league personnel” who do not stand and show respect for the flag while on the field.