The NFL finally updated its policy on player demonstrations during the playing of the national anthem. In its decision Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell said players are welcome to remain in the locker room if they don't want to stand with hand over heart, but they will fine teams who kneel on the field.
"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," Goodell said.
The conflict over the anthem began when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling in protest against what he called racial injustice. President Trump, having none of it, called Kaepernick and other kneeling players "SOBs" for disrespecting the flag. Although he wished the NFL owners would've been a little stricter, he was pleased with the league's new policy.
"You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there, maybe you shouldn't be in the country," Trump told "Fox & Friends" on Thursday. "I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. You shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe they shouldn’t be in the country."
There are those, however, who think the NFL's announcement is unfair and, in some cases, racist. The Sacramento Bee editorial board falls in the latter category. In a piece reacting to the NFL's decision, the editors likened the football league to a plantation.
"But that 30 team owners — all of them wealthy and privileged, most of them white and Republican — approved this policy limiting the free expression of a mostly black male work force is proof of just how tone deaf and prone to plantation mentality the NFL is," the editors write.
Demanding that players remain in the locker room if they don't want to stand is an "insult to dozens of young black men who feel compelled to use their hard-earned fame to push back against institutional racism," they elaborate. The editors asked the NFL to take a page out of the NBA's playbook.
"The NFL should take a lesson from the NBA, another professional sports league dominated by black players. Rather than remain blind to the racial and power dynamics, the NBA has encouraged players to speak up in their own way to address causes they care about."
Instead of punishing kneeling athletes, the NFL should focus their efforts on combatting CTE and investigating domestic violence allegations in the league, the editors suggest.
ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon also used the word "plantation" to describe the NFL's response to the player protests last year. He had particular ire for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who told his players he would not tolerate any kneeling.
“The word that comes to my mind, and I don’t care who doesn’t like me using it, is ‘plantation,’ ” Wilbon said at the time. “The players are here to serve me; they will do what I want no matter how much I pay them. They are not equal to me. That’s what this says to me and to mine.”
"We all deserve better," the Sacramento Bee concluded in its op-ed.