The NFL is enforcing a new National Anthem policy in response to players who have chosen to kneel in protest during the song.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Wednesday, May 23, that team owners decided during an annual spring meeting in Atlanta that players who do not stand on the field or sidelines during “The Star Spangled Banner” would be fined, per The New York Times.
However, owners are allowing players to remain in the locker room without penalty as an alternative to standing on the field in support of the anthem.
“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” Goodell said in a statement to NYT. “Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.”
According to the Washington Post, individual teams will have the right to decide how to punish players who violate the new rules. Even so, all teams will likely face an NFL fine if players are not visibly standing on or near the field.
The new rule comes nearly two years after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines for kneeling during the anthem at an August 2016 game. President Donald Trump slammed Kaepernick’s act of protest immediately after and again in October 2017, tweeting his belief that NFL owners should fire players who do not stand during the anthem.
Notable athletes, including Tom Brady, reacted to Trump’s comments in September 2017 during a New England Patriots game. Brady linked arms with his fellow teammates to support other players who decided to take a knee.
Throughout the season, many more sports stars from the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and more either linked arms or bent their knees to show unity.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, an outspoken supporter of the commander in chief, reportedly criticized Trump’s reaction to the kneeling controversy during the spring conference.
“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” Kraft said, according to NYT. “It’s divisive and horrible.”
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