After months of debate over national anthem protests in the NFL, owners of all 32 teams have approved a new policy that requires players on the field to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Players who do not wish to stand may stay in the locker room during the anthem, or will face fines if they sit or kneel while on the field.
The new rules were announced by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday during the league’s spring meeting. Players were not involved in the decision. Teams, rather than individual athletes, will have to pay the fines if they do not “show respect for the flag and the Anthem,” and the clubs will also be allowed to develop their own rules regarding punishment for those who violate the policy.
The wave of national anthem protests started with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the pregame anthem in 2016 as a statement against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system. Players around the league soon followed suit, sparking national debate.
The conversation went so far as the White House, with President Donald Trump saying during a rally in September, “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!'” Vice President Mike Pence also walked out of an NFL game last season after some players knelt during the anthem.
Sportswriter Ian Rapoport tweeted out the new policy: