NFLPA's George Atallah: We'll Fight Anthem Policy Change 'To the End'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2018

Members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

National Football League Players Association spokesperson George Atallah said Wednesday the organization will fight any alteration to NFL policy that forces players to stand during the United States national anthem.

On Wednesday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported the league "is expected to allow players to stay in the locker room during anthem and fine teams for any flag [or] anthem disrespect." The NFL later confirmed the rule change surrounding the anthem.

Prior to that announcement, ESPN's Dan Graziano provided Atallah's response to that expected change.

"We were not consulted ahead of this meeting on any potential changes to the anthem policy," he said. "If there are changes to the policy that put players in a position where they could be disciplined or fined, we are going to do what we always do—fight anything that encroaches on players' rights to the end."

After the league announced the rule change, the NFLPA posted a statement on Twitter, saying it will "review the new 'policy' and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement:"

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday the league wants to get the focus back on football because fans "want to come to the game and get away from the issues that are going on out here."

"You've got a very genuine, very genuine stewardship for the teams and the ownership, and certainly their interest in the fans, which is probably No. 1, and I'm not trying to diminish issues of our rights here," he told reporters. "But the No. 1 thing here is our fans, and I know our fans want us to zero in on the game, zero in on football."

Protests by players during the national anthem have been a hot-button topic for the NFL since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement in August 2016 to protest social injustice.

Kaepernick is currently pursuing a collusion case against the league because he's remained a free agent since opting out of his contract with the Niners last March.

The protests have often drawn the ire of President Donald Trump, who said during the 2017 season that NFL owners should fire players who protested during the anthem.

"For a week, [that owner would] be the most popular person in this country," Trump said. "Because [protesting during the anthem is] a total disrespect of our heritage. That's a total disrespect for everything we stand for."

A CNN poll released in September showed 49 percent of respondents called the players' decision to protest during the anthem the "wrong thing" to do, while 43 percent said it was the "right thing."   

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