On May 23, the National Football League voted to prohibit players from publicly protesting in the form of kneeling during the National Anthem. In a meeting, the owners voted to fine teams whose players continued to kneel during the song this upcoming season. The enforcement of this punishment is to be decided by the team, giving them the autonomy to decide the fine amount, and also who will pay it, as long as they uphold the principles set forth by the league.
This decision, which was voted on at the spring meeting of all the owners in Atlanta, comes after months of controversy over the manner in which the protesting has been done.
The protests started in 2016 with former 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who, by himself, began kneeling during the National Anthem as a way to draw attention to police brutality and other social injustices that minorities face in the United States. Soon after, other players started to join him and created talk around the league and country. The original purpose of the protests was lost as fans, media outlets, and even the pof the United States painted the protests as protesting the flag, troops, and America itself, marking the players as unpatriotic. Regardless of the conversation generated, the still hesitated on passing any formal legislation requiring players to act in a certain way.
The new decision
However, the league on the matter when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that players were mandated to either stand for the National Anthem, or remain in the locker room without penalty if they so choose (although he stated that he would rather all players be present during the anthem).
His main concern is that all clubs show their solidarity in respecting the moment of the flag and the anthem. He also announced that this decision was unanimous, but, contradicting statements from certain club executives suggests otherwise.
The San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York released a statement that they had abstained, saying, “We are planning to meet with our players to make sure everything they do is about promoting the right types of social justice reform and getting to a better America.” The chief executive of the New York Jets, Christopher Johnson, said the team would cover all the fines of their players stating, “I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Instead, we will continue to work closely with our players to constructively advance social justice issues that are important to us.”
The union‘s response to the league
The move made by the league has also sparked a backlash from the players and the union. According to NBC News, the union released a statement revealing that the Players‘ Association had not been consulted in the development of the new policy and that they believe the players have shown and will continue to show, continuous patriotism and support of military and law enforcement.
Their protests are to show and draw awareness to the social issues that are important to the players. Players have taken to social media to comment on the issue as well. Sage Rosenfels, a quarterback from 2001-2012, tweeted that he hoped the NFL decided to stop concession sales, filming, and all other activity that take away from the sacredness of the anthem.
Hopefully, this decision does not lead to another lockout between the league and the union, but the NFL‘s decision seems like one that only benefits those with a lot of money invested, and ignores the rights of the players to express their concerns of social issues that affect them, especially considering the large percentage of NFL players of which minorities make.