KC10WC New Orleans Saints' head coach Sean Payton (centre) joins his team in taking a knee prior to the American National Anthem prior to the NFL International Series match at Wembley Stadium, London.

Peaceful protests by NFL players will be met with fines according to new national anthem policy

3 mins read

NFL will now fine any personnel who does not comply with new national anthem policy.

With 10 weeks until the kickoff of NFL preseason and training camps gearing up for mid-July start dates, league owners released a new policy regarding kneeling or sitting during the national anthem.

The policy mandates that “all team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and Anthem,” while it is being played during the games’ opening.

According to new rules voted on by the 32 team owners, personnel who choose not to do so must stay in the locker rooms for the ceremony. A club fine will be imposed for those who disobey. The vote to implement the policy was almost unanimous, but the San Francisco 49ers’ ownership abstained from voting.

This rule comes after two seasons surrounding the growing silent protests of players who opted to kneel, sit, raise their fists and display other acts of protest in response to police brutality in the country.

The NFL Players Association released a statement on Wednesday.

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.

The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our league.

Our union will review the new “policy” and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.

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Athletes using their public platforms to bring attention to social justice issues is a long-standing tradition in the United States, especially with, but not exclusively to Black athletes.

In 2016, 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand during the playing of the national anthem and salute to the U.S. flag. Soon after a comment made by a military veteran (stating that sitting was disrespectful), Kaepernick began to kneel as a way to protest the increasingly hostile relationship between African-Americans and law enforcement in the nation.

Off the field, he continued to voice concerns over the systemic police brutality and unlawful killings of Black people.

More players began to show their solidarity with Kaepernick and social justice movements, like Black Lives Matter. Their efforts highlighted the ongoing struggle to stop Black citizens, many of whom are innocent of violating any laws, from getting killed by police.

The NFL strategically shuttered Kaepernick after his season-long protests when the 49ers did not pick him back up after March 2017. Kaepernick is now a free agent. He has not played since.

This past April, ESPN reported that the Seattle Seahawks rescinded an invitation to Kaepernick to join their training camp this summer when he refused to say whether he would continue his on-field protests. As well, the Ravens passed up on signing Kaepernick.

Last October, Kaepernick filed a grievance alleging that the NFL plotted to keep him away from playing, a violation of the collective bargaining agreement between owners and players.

There are other players who experienced blowback for their “take a knee” stance. Brandon Marshall and Von Miller of the Denver Broncos lost endorsements. Damontre Moore was cut from the Dallas Cowboys, and Eric Reid just filed a grievance stating that he has not been picked up due to his protest with fellow former teammate, Kaepernick.

For the past year, there has been a push to boycott the NFL from two positions. On one hand, people advocate not watching or attending games until Kaepernick is signed. On the other hand, however, there is a growing contingency who refuse to participate due to ongoing on-field protests. Both ways, the NFL has experienced dwindling viewership and game attendance, as well as decreasing advertisement revenue.

While the owners state in the new policy, a “strong commitment to work alongside our players to strengthen our communities and advance social justice,” Kaepernick has been working with a number of social justice initiatives. He was awarded by Amnesty International for his work earlier in the year.

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