During the NFL’s spring meetings in Atlanta, the League announced all team personnel, including players, must stand for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before each game. The new policy also states the players can remain in the locker room if they do not wish to stand for the National Anthem.
However, if a player or team personnel chooses to kneel or protest during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the League will fine the team if “personnel does not show appropriate respect for flag and anthem.”
The revision was prompted after months of discussions on how to handle players who protested police brutality and racial inequality by kneeling during the national anthem. Wednesday afternoon, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement.
“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. We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it—and on our fans who enjoy it.”
In a 2015 report, Arizona Senators Jeff Flake (R) and John McCain (R) revealed in a joint oversight report that nearly $5.4 million in taxpayer dollars had been paid out to 14 NFL teams between 2011 and 2014 to honor service members and put on elaborate, “patriotic salutes” to the military.
Overall, they reported, “these displays of paid patriotism [were] included within the $6.8 million that the Department of Defense (DOD) [had] spent on sports marketing contracts since the fiscal year 2012.”
Meanwhile, the NFL Players Association was not consulted with Wednesday’s ruling, issued a statement in response:
“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy’. NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.”