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NFL Players ‘Shall Stand and Show Respect’ For Flag and Anthem

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The NFL released a statement saying that all of its athletes and staff “shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem” if they are on the field. This comes after months of controversial debate surrounding players who chose to take a knee during the national anthem. The policy says, “Personnel who choose to not 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.”

The policy also states: “The 32 member clubs of the National Football League have reaffirmed their strong commitment to work alongside our players to strengthen our communities and advance social justice. The unique platform that we have created is unprecedented in its scope, and will provide extraordinary resources in support of programs to promote positive social change in our communities.”

Taking a knee during the national anthem lead to polarized debates when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to do so in 2016 to bring awareness of police brutality and racism in America. Other athletes soon followed, including members of the Seattle Seahawks who refused to leave the locker room during a performance of the national anthem. This movement sparked the debate of how athletes and celebrities use their platform to spread awareness social issues. It started the conversation of racism in our society and shed light on the inequalities faced by marginalized.

NFL teams in the league struggled to adhere to their player’s wishes to highlight social justice issues. Those who supported the protest faced intense public scrutiny for their choice to do so, with threats of boycotts in the NFL if teams didn’t put a stop to the “disrespectful and unpatriotic conduct” protests. NFL fans did not find it fitting for athletes to incorporate their political agenda into the sport. Additionally, kneeling during anthem was widely interpreted as disrespectful to the soldiers who have fallen and who are fighting to serve our country.

Commissioner Roger Goodell stated, “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.” Goodell said that he hopes to the policy will put the focus of the NFL back on the game.

In making this decision, the league did not consult with the NFL Players Association, who responded with this statement: 

“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 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.”

As of now, the NFL’s 32 teams can develop their own rules about the process, as long as they are in adherence with this new policy. The NFL said, “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.”

As for Kaepernick and former 49ers safety Eric Reid, the second NFL player to join in the kneeling protests, they have both filed collusion cases against the league after they have failed to find a new team as free agents. Earlier this week, a report emerged that the investigation conducted by Kaepernick’s attorney unveiled documents that confirmed the former quarterback was good enough to play, and even start, in the NFL.

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