NFL owners have finally decided on an anthem policy: one that is sure to continue to be polarizing as the league gears up for another season. Without consulting any players or the player’s union, the decision was that players can stay in the locker room while the anthem is being played but should they go onto the field, they must stand.
Predictably, the reason was mixed.
The decision was announced Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the league’s spring meeting in Atlanta.
In a sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team — not the players. The NFL Players Association said it will challenge any part of the new policy that violates the collective bargaining agreement.
The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue — which has reached all the way to the White House.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.
Other players took up the cause.
Me, trying to find any NFL owners with common sense pic.twitter.com/tD1mp9Bql6
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) May 23, 2018
Associated Press talked to folks around and associated wit the league to get their reaction:
Arizona Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea says the NFL’s new national anthem policy is “not really a compromise,” as touted by the league.
The 12-year NFL veteran noted that “if you want to use your right of freedom of speech and take a knee, you’re going to get fined. So it’s really not a compromise.”
(In reality, the team, not the player, would be fined.)
Bethean noted that the NFL did give players the option of staying in the locker room while the anthem is played.
“Either it’s going to be a team thing and everybody stays in the locker room or everybody goes out and stands,” Bethea said. “But I think the fine thing is kind of overboard. I really do think fining players for really expressing what they believe, I think that’s kind of overboard.
“It’s a club policy so if the club supports the guys to do as they wish, then that’s fine, too. If the club decides everybody stays in the locker room, that’s a decision every team has to make.”
The players’ union also dismissed the idea that the policy was a compromise.
“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy,'” the NFLPA said in a statement.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 23, 2018
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott says he’s happy an agreement was reached on the anthem issue.
Prescott says that “I’ll be out there standing.” He added: “I’m sure we all know what (owner) Jerry (Jones) said. His statement was last year, and I don’t see that changing.”
While there was never a formal public declaration of such by Jones last year, the Cowboys owner had threatened to bench any players who did kneel.
During a Cowboys game at San Francisco in late October, about a half-dozen 49ers kneeled while all the Dallas players stood, though defensive tackle David Irving raised his fist after the anthem ended.
The Minnesota Vikings haven’t had any players kneel during the national anthem before games, and that’s fine by coach Mike Zimmer.
Zimmer has frequently avoided commentary on such non-football subjects, but on Wednesday after practice, he made his feelings known about the controversy. He said he was proud of the team last season for standing during the anthem.
Zimmer said: “I think it’s important we represent our country the right way. A lot of people have died for that flag. That flag represents our country and what we stand for.”
Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor learned of the new anthem policy shortly after practice. He was a bit surprised players were not consulted.
Taylor said that “to make a decision that strong, you would hope the players have input on it but obviously not.”
Taylor added that “it’s what we have to deal with as players, good or bad. But at the end of the day, they call the shots and make their rules and that’s what we have to abide by.”
Taylor hopes that the focus will now be on “what players and owners can do in the community.”
The New York Jets say they will pay any fines and not penalize players if they violate a new NFL policy to stand or stay in the locker room during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Jets owner Christopher Johnson said Wednesday the team is focused on working with players to advance social justice issues rather than creating club rules or penalties that restrict demonstrations.
The ruling approved by NFL owners fines teams for their players kneeling on the field during the national anthem in a move meant to stem widespread debate over protests started by former quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The policy leaves it up to individual teams to decide whether to pass that cost on by punishing players directly.
Johnson says he plans to meet with Jets players and coaches to discuss the decision. He says he’ll support the players “wherever we land as a team.”
Chicago Bears linebacker Sam Acho credits Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid and Michael Thomas for using their platform to raise awareness of social injustice.
But he sidestepped the questions when asked if he was OK with how the league implemented the changes to its national anthem policy and whether the union should have had more input.
Acho, a union representative, said that “of course, somebody who is standing on the side of the union is going to say yes and people who didn’t give the union a say — the owners — are going to say no. And so, what I do think is, I think we’re in a really good place, as a team, honestly as a country. Because we’re at this point, almost like a point of contrition, right? What do you do now?”
Acho also said the players and league need to continue working together to address the issue. He said that “it’s not an us-versus-them thing.”
Denver Broncos union representative Matt Paradis says that while he wishes players were consulted on the new national anthem policy, NFL owners have every right to introduce new rules.
Paradis says that “they are the employers, so if they want to create a stipulation, we’ll go from there.”
Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe agrees with the league’s new mandate for players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” or stay inside the locker room.
Wolfe says: “That’s probably the best way to do it. The NBA’s been doing it for 20 years and they haven’t had an issue.”
Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster shrugged his shoulders when asked about the NFL’s new policy on national anthem protests, saying in a way, players are powerless.
Foster says: ‘If the team says, ‘this is what we’re doing,’ and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you’re probably going to get cut. You can fight the resistance on that one but, same as we can’t smoke marijuana because it’s illegal in certain states, it’s the same issue.”
The guard says, “you have to adhere to the rules and if not, they’ll find a way to get you up out of there.”
The Steelers botched an attempt last fall to stay out of the national anthem flap by remaining in the tunnel during a game in Chicago.
Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a graduate of West Point who did three tours in Afghanistan before joining the NFL, found himself on the field when the anthem began playing and turned to face the flag. His teammates remained in the tunnel, leading to the stark image of Villanueva standing alone while his teammates remained out of sight 20 yards away.
Villanueva and the rest of the Steelers apologized for what they called a miscommunication.
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