After an NFL season rife with controversy over player protests, league owners on Wednesday approved a new policy that will allow players to remain in the locker room during the national anthem but require those who are on the sidelines to stand.
The new policy, announced Wednesday after a two-day meeting of the league's 32 owners here, leaves it to individual teams to discipline players for acts deemed disrespectful during the anthem but also gives the league wide discretion to fine teams for actions taken by players.
The NFLPA lashed back against the league for creating a protocol that did not adhere to the collective bargaining agreement, nor did the NFL and its owners include players in conversation about the new policy demanding teams and its players stand if on the field for the Star-Spangled Banner.
Players who do come onto the field for the anthems would be required to stand or teams would be fined. "At the same time, we need to listen to our players and support the issues and causes that matter to them".
"Vice President Mike Pence tweeted about the rule change with the caption "#Winning" in a post that was quickly retweeted by the official @POTUS account. 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. It was during those nine months that the NFL's owners engaged in an internal debate over how to handle social protests within the game, and most especially during the national anthem.
If any player does decide to kneel during the anthem, his team faces a fine by the NFL.
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The protests began almost two years ago when Colin Kaepernick protested during the anthem for the first time in August 2016. He noted: "It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of National Football League players were unpatriotic".
America's most popular sport found itself at the center of a political firestorm in 2017 after President Donald Trump described players who kneeled during the anthem to draw attention to racial injustice as "sons of bitches" who were insulting the flag and the nation.
"This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem", Goodell's statement added.
"It's important that we discuss today's developments with our players, and I'm looking forward to speaking with them as soon as possible".
He said it was unanimously approved by National Football League owners, but that was immediately called into question when the head of the San Francisco 49ers - Kaepernick's former team, no less - said he abstained from the vote. This is not and was never the case.
Art Rooney II, the president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, said the policy was the result of extensive consultation. The NFL Players Association, unhappy about not being consulted, issued a response saying it will review the policy and "challenge any aspect" that is inconsistent with the CBA. "We want people to stand", said Goodell, who dismissed concerns about the lack of union involvement by contending the league met with countless players over the past year. "I think that's a particularly bad idea..."
"I don't think we should be profiting if we're going to put this type of attention and focus on the field and on the flag", York said. Trump called players who knelt "sons of bitches" a year ago.
Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL.