The NFL has announced a change to the league’s policy for the national anthem. The spring owners’ meeting is being used to discuss a variety of subjects, but the topic that is getting the most press is the League policy with regards to the national anthem.
The league was thrust in to the middle of a contentious dispute in 2017 when dozens of players protested social injustice by kneeling during the national anthem, including New York Giants DE/OLB Olivier Vernon. At the time, the league’s policy only stated that players “should” stand for the anthem.
The new policy will allow players to remain in the locker room should they choose. Those who come out of the locker room for the anthem will be required to stand or the team will be fined. The team would have the option of fining individual players if it so chooses.
The change to the policy is an attempt by the NFL to strike a balance between a desire to avoid appearing disrespectful while also avoiding accusations of infringing on players’ right to free speech.
Because of the nature of the new policy — that it is an adjustment to the operations manual — the rule change did not have to be collectively bargained. As such, the NFL Players Association was not a part of the decision making process.
Roger Goodell statement and full policy
The policy adopted today was approved in concert with the NFL’s ongoing commitment to local communities and our country — one that is extraordinary in its scope, resources, and alignment with our players. We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.
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.
The 32 member clubs of the National Football League have reaffirmed their strong commitment to work alongside our players to strengthen our communities and advance social justice. The unique platform that we have created is unprecedented in its scope, and will provide extraordinary resources in support of programs to promote positive social change in our communities.
The membership also strongly believes that:
1. All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
2. The Game Operations Manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the Anthem.
3. Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the Anthem has been performed.
4. A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
5. Each club may develop its own work rules, consistent with the above principles, regarding its personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
6. The Commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.