Responding to two seasons' worth of headline-making protests, the National Football League passed a policy on Wednesday that requires players and all team personnel on the sidelines to stand for the national anthem.
While players have the option to spend the duration of the anthem in the locker room, clubs can be fined if their personnel who do not "stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem" on the field, USA Today reports. Franchises can also fine the player or personnel for the infraction.
NFL players like Colin Kaepernick who took a knee during the National Anthem made waves in recent years. Their nonviolent protest of police brutality and racial inequality both inspired the masses — GQ named Kaepernick their Citizen of the Year last November — it also resulted in censure and outrage.
“We want people to be respectful of the national anthem,” commissioner Roger Goodell said during a news conference, according to USA Today. “We want people to stand — that's all personnel — and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That’s something we think we owe. We have been very sensitive in making sure we give players choices, but we do believe that that moment is important and one we are going to focus on.”
Goodell said that owners came to a unanimous agreement at the league meeting in Atlanta on Wednesday, USA Today reports. However, Jed York, owner of the San Francisco 49ers, said that he abstained from the vote, according to ESPN. Former 49ers Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are both known for having protested during the anthem on numerous occasions, and both filed collusion charges against the NFL after they failed to find jobs as free agents.
“I think there are a lot of reasons, and I’m not going to get into all of them,” said York, when ESPN asked why he abstained from voting. “But I think the gist of it is really that we want to make sure that everything we’re doing is to promote progress. And I think we’ve done a good piece of that so far.”
The newly announced policy will be part of the NFL's game operations manual and thus not subject to collective bargaining, ESPN explained.
The new policy was created without the input of the NFL Players Association, the NFLPA said in a statement released Wednesday. They promise to review the policy and will “challenge any aspect” that is inconsistent with their collective bargaining agreement.
“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy,’” read the NFLPA statement. “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.”
The previous NFL policy stated that players “should” stand for the national anthem, ESPN reports.
[Photo: Eli Harold, Colin Kaepernick, and Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the national anthem, prior to the game against the New York Jets at Levi Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. By Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images]