After two years of players kneeling in disrespect on the sidelines at NFL games, Commissioner Roger Goodell released a list of new rules surrounding the National Anthem Wednesday.
"The policy adopted today was approved in concert with the NFL’s ongoing commitment to local communities and our country — one that is extraordinary in its scope, resources, and alignment with our players. We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society," Goodell said. "The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed. 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," he continued. "This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem. 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 policies require players on the field to stand in respect for National Anthem, but gives those who refuse to stay inside the locker room. Players will not be required to be on the field.
Here are the new policies, bolding is mine:
1. All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
2. The Game Operations Manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the Anthem.
3. Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the Anthem has been performed.
4. A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
5. Each club may develop its own work rules, consistent with the above principles, regarding its personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
6. The Commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
The NFL is not requiring players to stand for the National Anthem. In fact, they're not even requiring they be present.
The NFL Player's Association, which represents players in the union, isn't happy.
“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 association released in a statement. "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."
Since the kneeling started two seasons ago, the NFL has seen game ratings and attendance nosedive. The number one reason fans tuned out last year was because of the National Anthem protests.
National anthem protests were the top reason that NFL fans watched fewer games last season, according to a new survey released by J.D. Power.
The pollster said it asked more than 9,200 people who attended either one football, basketball or hockey game whether they tuned into fewer games and why. Twenty-six percent of those who watched fewer games last season said that national anthem protests, some of which were led by Colin Kaepernick, were the reason.
After that, 24 percent of those surveyed who said they watched fewer games said they did so either because of the league's off-the-field image issues with domestic violence or with game delays, including penalties.