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N.F.L. Won’t Force Players To Stand For National Anthem

Kaepernick Kneeling Anthem

After weeks of controversy brought about largely by President Trump using the issue to rally his base, there has been some speculation that the National Football League would soon be changing its rules to require players to stand during the pre-game National Anthem, but the league shot those rumors down with an announcement late last week:

The NFL said Friday it has no plans to force players to stand during the national anthem, but will convene to discuss ways to end the controversial protests without imposing new rules.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is set to meet with the head of the NFL Players Association and team owners in New York next week, where the protests are likely to dominate discussion.

NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said that Goodell “has a plan that he is going to present to owners about how to use our platform to both raise awareness and make progress on issues of social justice and equality in this country,” according to Reuters.

The league pushed back on speculation about a possible vote on a proposal next week. The NFL previously said its meeting next week would allow owners a chance to review current policy, which encourages players to stand during the anthem but doesn’t make it mandatory.

The league released a joint statement with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) earlier this week saying that they would work to advance the mission of the protests, which have called attention to issues of racial injustice and police brutality toward African-Americans.

“What we don’t have is a proposal that changes our policy, we don’t have something that mandates anything. That’s clear,” Lockhart added. “If that was the case I doubt the head of the NFLPA would have put a joint statement out with us.”

Goodell said in a previous statement on Tuesday that “everyone should stand for the National Anthem.” The commissioner said that while he respected the players and their concerns, the protests are a “barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues.”

The announcement comes after a start to the new season that has been filled with controversy thanks largely to the fact that President Trump decided to resurrect the issue of players standing or not standing for the National Anthem during a speech in late August in Alabama where he referred to the protesting players as “sons of bitches.” In the wake of that speech, and notwithstanding the fact that Colin Kaepernick, the player who initiated the protests last season that had mostly faded away, is not even playing this reason, the issue was resurrected and players reacted to it beginning with the first games of the season when more players than ever before kneeled or engaged in some other silent show of solidarity, in many cases joined by team owners who spoke out in favor of their players. As the controversy continued, Trump seemingly egged it on by continuing to attack the players via his Twitter feed and calling for the league to fire players who are not standing for the Anthem. Most recently, the issue came back into public view last week when Vice-President Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game when several of members of the opposing team chose to kneel during the anthem.

In the wake of all this renewed controversy, as well as reports that viewership for some N.F.L. games has been down so far this reason, there has been some speculation that the league and the owners would act to put an end to the controversy. The first sign that this might be a possibility came when Dallas Cowboys owner, who had previously joined his team in an act of solidarity in the first week of the season, suggested that players who declined to stand for the National Anthem in the future would be benched for some unspecified period. Early last week, meanwhile, it was reported that N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell and league owners would be considering a rule change that would require players to stand for the Anthem or face some unspecified disciplinary consequences. This lead to blowback from players, many of whom had backed away from the protests that marked the beginning of the season, as well as the observation from outsiders that the league’s options in this area are likely limited given the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement with the N.F.L. Player’s Association and general principles of labor law. With this announcement late last week, it would appear that, at least for now, the league will try to put this issue behind them, although that’s not going to be easy with the President of the United States seemingly ready to tweet about it at a moment’s notice.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    If we can’t make black men shut up about racial inequality by threatening their livelihoods, how will we know that America is great?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 31 Thumb down 1

  2. James in Bremerton says:

    The U.S. was founded on principles of dissent. One tell is that anthems, flags, and pledges do not appear in the U.S. Constitution.

    Which is all quaint hoo-hah to owners who see a far deeper cratering of their franchise if so much as one player is reprimanded, Jerry Jones’s fat mouth notwithstanding.

    The NFL, and all sports, suffers from increased online competition. It’s a bad bidness decision to speed that up by capitulating to 30% of the U.S. population over false nationalism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  3. MBunge says:

    Just so I understand…

    Nationalism when it comes to getting people to watch the Olympics or the World Cup = Good!

    Nationalism when it comes to expecting highly paid athletes to respect the anthem = Bad!

    Nationalism when we ask soldiers to fight and die to protect America = Good!

    Nationalism when it inconveniences the rest of us = Bad!

    Dissent from black millionaires = Good!

    Dissent from working class white people = Bad!

    I’ll try and keep this list updated with future revelations.

    Mike

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 23

  4. James in Bremerton says:

    “@MBunge: @MBunge:

    “Just so I understand…”

    That phenomenon has yet to occur. Pick any topic, really.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 1

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I guess this means the NFL still wants to have football games on Sundays.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  6. Mikey says:

    @MBunge:

    I’ll try and keep this list updated with future revelations.

    Have at it, but remember straw does take some time to reach its optimal height and you used a shitload of it on just one comment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. wr says:

    @MBunge: Here’s a handy little guide, in case you really are as dense as you like to pretend to be:

    Patriotism as a voluntary expression of true feelings = good.

    Nationalism as a forced expression of fealty to a government at threat of punishment = bad.

    I realize this is a difficult for someone whose philosophy is “free speech is when people say things I like.” But maybe print it out and carry it in your wallet.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  8. Grewgills says:

    MBunge are you as stupid as the character you play on the internet?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  9. Scott says:

    One thing is true: The value of a billion dollar franchise without players is exactly zero. That is what the owner are afraid of.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  10. Davebo says:

    @Scott: True. And alleged “conservatives” griping about how much the athletes are paid when in reality, they are underpaid, is hilarious.

    The NFLPA does a lousy job representing it’s member’s interests.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  11. DrDaveT says:

    @Davebo:

    And alleged “conservatives” griping about how much the athletes are paid when in reality, they are underpaid, is hilarious.

    Seriously. I keep waiting for some of these ‘conservatives’ to demand free agency for all players, so that the Free Market can operate as Adam Smith intended. Not happening, though, for some bizarre reason.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. James Pearce says:

    Good. Now perhaps we can do something about police violence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    Nationalism when it inconveniences the rest of us = Bad!

    So, fill me in …
    How, exactly, is anyone inconvenienced by a quiet and respectful protest of the National Anthem?

    Does it anger you in advance of going to get that 2nd Bud Lite from the fridge? What is it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  14. Franklin says:

    @al-Ameda: Heh, good point. I thought I was supposed to be looking at the flag during the national anthem, not looking at Colin K.

    Sort of reminds me of when relatives bow and say grace. If all of them are properly adhering, how would they know I’m not?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  15. Mister Bluster says:

    “Nationalism when it comes to expecting highly paid athletes to respect the anthem…”

    So Kim Jong Trump and Comrade Bungles will give a pass when those amateur uppity ni99ers don’t see the world through a honkie’s eyes.

    (somehow I doubt it)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  16. Tyrell says:

    Looking at this past weekend’s action, a lot of the players aren’t going to be able to stand anyway.
    Time for the “Pack” to return to a running, defense game.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. JKB says:

    The networks have found a solution. They’ve disappeared the players kneeling, sitting, etc. and the fans booing. They’ve returned to the regularly scheduled program of showing advertisement during the anthem. There prior practice before they thought “look controversy, let’s highlight that!”

    But the numbers to look at are the reported lower earnings report from Buffalo Wild Wings attributed to lower NFL interest. And we’ll see how the sales of ‘official NFL sponsor’ Papa John’s do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  18. barbintheboonies says:

    If these players want to make a political statement, they need to get on a talk show and say it. People who spent money to go to a game or concert come to be entertained, they do not want their opinions thrown in their faces. I did not always agree with my bosses and their rules, but I obeyed them because I wanted to keep my job. I do not believe they realize just how fortunate they are to play and be so successful. I myself will protest them. I hope others will do the same.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  19. DrDaveT says:

    @barbintheboonies:

    I myself will protest them.

    So, let me make sure I have this straight:

    Cops murdering black citizens without accountability did not bother you enough to prompt you to any particular public stance or action. However, NFL players kneeling during the national anthem is unsupportable, and not only infuriates you but has driven you to act.

    Have I got that right?

    You have… interesting priorities.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  20. barbintheboonies says:

    @DrDaveT: What does football and concerts have to do with inequality. It looks to me there are many black and brown people, making big bucks on these teams. I want to watch a game without listening to politics. Until we get over this BS I will not support the NFL or any other organization who supports this un-American behavior. My sister went to a concert recently PINK FLOYD the band went on and on about their hatred of Trump. Even if most of the people there are not Trump supporters, why would they want to talk politics at this place? IT MAKES NO SENSE. Go on MSNBC and vent away.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  21. barbintheboonies says:

    @DrDaveT: Cops murdering blacks okay I agree many cops do suck, but many are very good people too. In every career there are good and bad. Cops now are targets and are being unjustly killed also. It isn`t PC to show bad blacks attacking white cops, so it will look very one sided. The media loves to stir the sheet pot, they need to be made to lick the spoon. I believe Trump is putting the spoon in their mouth and they do not like it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  22. DrDaveT says:

    @barbintheboonies:

    What does football and concerts have to do with inequality.

    It is, as Teddy Roosevelt would have it, a “bully pulpit” — an opportunity to make a point where people pretty much have to hear it. Otherwise, people tend to look the other way a lot, as you are demonstrating.

    It looks to me there are many black and brown people, making big bucks on these teams.

    I cannot imagine why you care, or why you think this is relevant to the current discussion. Unless black and brown people making lots of money bothers you in general. Or that people who make a lot of money should not express opinions. If it’s the latter, are you also boycotting Congress, movies, television, NASCAR, golf courses, etc?

    I want to watch a game without listening to politics.

    If you really think that an epidemic of unjustified homicides is ‘politics’, I’m afraid you’re too far gone to be helped. Enjoy your NFL-less life.

    Until we get over this BS I will not support the NFL or any other organization who supports this un-American behavior.

    Murder without accountability isn’t un-American, but kneeling during the national anthem is. Again, your priorities seem bizarre to me. (Setting aside the whole “freedom of speech is un-American” narrative you seem to be spinning here…)

    Cops murdering blacks okay I agree many cops do suck, but many are very good people too. In every career there are good and bad.

    Unless you routinely use this same argument to explain why we shouldn’t be trying to do anything about date rapists, wife-beaters, drunk drivers, and other sucky members of groups where “many are very good people too”, I’ll have to conclude that you’re really just a racist. Do you routinely make that argument? Didn’t think so.

    It isn`t PC to show bad blacks attacking white cops, so it will look very one sided.

    (A) Then why did I see so much of it in the coverage of Jefferson, and Baltimore, and other sites of rioting?
    (B) The cops are supposed to be the good guys, you idiot. It is not a sane defense to say that the bad guys are bad, so you can’t blame the good guys for being bad too.
    (C) “Bad blacks” who attack cops get beaten, go to jail, maybe just happen to die. Bad cops who murder blacks get acquitted, maybe some administrative punishment, maybe even lose their jobs. You’re right that it’s one-sided, but you have the direction backward.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. Tyrell says:

    @DrDaveT: People are turning off the NFL. The games are too long, too many games, too many commercials, and overpaid players. They are also tired of the politics. I myself prefer the small college sports: you don’t have to spend a week’s income to get in, and they even let you bring in your own snacks!
    I am also taking another look at NASCAR, only the problem there is the big name drivers are gone, and the cars look the same. But at least you won’t see those teams sitting out the National Anthem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. wr says:

    @barbintheboonies: “My sister went to a concert recently PINK FLOYD the band went on and on about their hatred of Trump. Even if most of the people there are not Trump supporters, why would they want to talk politics at this place?”

    Un, because they have a large audience with whom they can share their views?

    Oh, and since Pink Floyd last performed as a band at Live 8 in 2005, I’m pretty sure your sister saw Roger Waters, former leader of the group who is now on an international tour and playing a lot of Floyd material. And anyone who goes to see Roger Waters without realizing in advance that he is ferociously political and extremely vocal about his beliefs is simply too stupid to deserve an opinion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. wr says:

    @barbintheboonies: I was going to say that this:

    “The media loves to stir the sheet pot, they need to be made to lick the spoon”

    was the single dumbest thing I’d ever read on the internet, and then I saw you had followed it up with something even dumber:

    “I believe Trump is putting the spoon in their mouth and they do not like it.”

    Well done!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. DrDaveT says:

    @Tyrell:

    The games are too long, too many games, too many commercials, and overpaid players.

    Setting aside for a moment that Tyrell is performance art, could someone (I know you’re out there) who genuinely believes that “NFL players are overpaid” is a reason to stop watching NFL please, for God’s sake, explain that way of thinking to me? Why do you care how much the players make? Why do you care at all about the cost to produce a product that you get for free? Why would you prefer that NFL revenues go to owners, rather than players? It looks like it’s merely the pettiest of petty jealousies, but perhaps I’m missing some aspect I hadn’t considered…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0