NFL owners are reportedly considering instituting a 15-yard penalty for players who kneel during the national anthem.
Albert Breer of NFL Network reported the news. The measure came up during league owner meetings this week in Atlanta.
Under the proposal, the home team would have the option to decide whether teams come out to the field for the anthem. Teams would then be penalized 15 yards if a player chooses to kneel.
Protests during the national anthem have been the most polarizing topic in sports since Colin Kaepernick began doing so during the 2016 preseason. Kaepernick began kneeling in protest of racial injustice across the United States, particularly police brutality against African Americans.
A number of other players, including then-teammate Eric Reid, joined in the protest. Kaepernick and Reid are each currently pursuing collusion grievances against the NFL, claiming team owners kept them out of the league because of their protests, which are not currently prohibited under league rules.
President Donald Trump has been one of the staunchest critics of protestors, calling on the NFL to fire or suspend players who knelt. Trump's public rhetoric caused a widespread player protest last September, but league owners, some of whom are friendly with the president, have taken heed of his message.
"The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don't feel is in the best interests of America," New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a meeting with players, per the New York Times' Ken Belson and Mark Leibovich. "It's divisive and it's horrible."
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair directly asked players to stop kneeling.
"You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you," McNair said.
While the league instituting a new rule could be seen as folding to Trump's demands, there are other sports leagues that explicitly require players stand for the anthem. NBA commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo around the league before the 2017-18 season reminding teams players are required to stand during the national anthem.