After a season that saw ratings declines, advertiser abandonment, and political/racial divides flare on and off the field, ESPN reports that NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance.
The new policy, announced this morning, gives players/staff the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer, but as ESPN notes, subjects teams to a fine if a player or any other team personnel do not show appropriate respect for the anthem. That includes any attempt to sit or kneel, as dozens of players have done during the past two seasons. Those teams will also have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction.
"This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.
"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 vote was approved by all 32 owners.
"The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed," Goodell said in the statement.
"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."
The NFL Players Association is not happy. Assistant executive director of external affairs George Atallah said in a statement.
"We were not consulted ahead of this meeting on any potential changes to the anthem policy..."
"If there are changes to the policy that put players in a position where they could be disciplined or fined, we are going to do what we always do -- fight anything that encroaches on players' rights to the end."
While this may appear a win for President Trump, The Daily Caller's David Hookstead is not really sure this rule goes far enough or will get the job done. People are still going to complain and fans will remain unhappy if players just stay in locker rooms.
The fact of the matter here is that the NFL has no choice but to require all players to stand and give owners the option to suspend or cut players who don’t. They’re employees. It’s not a democracy on the field. Football is a dictatorship. Any player who stays in the locker room for the anthem can stay there for the rest of the game if I was the coach or owner.
We’ll have to wait and see what kind of impact this has. I’m not holding my breath that this will save everything. I wouldn’t expect much at all to change until players start losing their jobs.
As a reminder, Kaepernick and former 49ers safety Eric Reid have both filed collusion cases against the league after failing to find jobs as free agents.