It all began in 2016 when then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick decided to take a stand against the injustice toward people of colour by taking a knee and kneeling during the performance of the National Anthem.
And while there was some grumbling over the move, other players in the NFL some joined the movement. But it all came to a head last season when U.S. President Donald Trump erroneously assumed that the protests were disrespect for the flag and the military.
As a result of the vociferously rants and misconceptions, the NFL team owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell decided that some action was needed.
As a part of the owners meetings, a new rule has been created that addresses the issue. Any player wishing to continue their protest may do so…from the locker room. But any player who enters the field of play prior to the playing of the National Anthem must, “ stand and show respect for the flag” during the playing of the Anthem.
Commissioner Goodell stated that he will impose, “appropriate discipline”, for any player who is on the field and not standing for the Anthem which will include fines for the team.
The rule will take effect with the first preseason game of the season.
The ruling was touted as being a unanimous vote among the 30 tram owners, but team CEO for the San Francisco 49ers Jed York abstained and did not cast a vote. York said that they are exploring further actions including the suspension of concession sales while the Anthem is being performed.
Owner for the New York Jets Christopher Johnson has stated that he will cover any fine given a player who does follow the new ruling.
Saying that they were not consulted over the rule change, the NFL Players Union may be filing a grievance if it results in any changes to their collective bargaining agreement. NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith referred to the ruling as, “a blow against America’s most basic of rights — freedom of speech.” Smith added, “management has chosen to quash the same freedom of speech that protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to prevent someone who does not wish to do so. I know that not all of the NFL CEO’s are for this and I know that true American patriots are not cheering today.”
It is important to note that non-white players make up 79 percent of NFL players.
Prior to the tragedy of September 11, 2001 the teams remained in the locker rooms during pre-game ceremonies – including the Anthem – but after 9/11 standing on the field was seen as a way to show patriotism and solidarity as a nation. And it became a requirement after the NFL signed a marketing deal with the military in 2009.