NFL Passes Rule Fining Teams If They Do Not 'Show Respect' for Flag, Anthem

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2018

Singer Pink performs the national anthem during the pregame of the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Adam Bettcher)
Adam Bettcher/Associated Press

The NFL passed a rule Wednesday that will fine teams for perceived disrespect of the American flag or national anthem.

The league revealed the policy in a statement outlining the change:

"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.​"

ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported on the rule, noting players will be permitted to remain in the locker room during the anthem, but teams will be fined for sideline demonstrations.

In the league release commissioner Roger Goodell commented on the change in the league release, saying it was "unfortunate" that the "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 later told attending media: "We want people to stand. We do believe that moment is important to focus on." Dan Graziano of ESPN noted Goodell took three questions on the policy and reporters were told he will not speak publicly again on Wednesday.

When asked by reporters what "constitutes disrespect," Cowboys COO Stephen Jones said he "believes you'll know it when you see it," according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. Jones also noted the team hasn't "worked out a specific fine schedule" in line with the policy.

Protests during the national anthem became commonplace two years ago when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling rather than standing.

Per ESPN's Dan Graziano, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said the following regarding the report: "We were not consulted ahead of this meeting on any potential changes to the anthem policy. 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 official announcement, the NFLPA posted a statement on Twitter, noting it will challenge any part of the policy that is "inconsistent" with the collective bargaining agreement:

While players will not be disciplined individually by the league, the potential punishment could cause teams to ban players from protesting during the anthem internally.

President Donald Trump became one of the most vocal opponents of the protests last year.

While speaking at a rally in Alabama, Trump commented on the matter, saying, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b---h off the field right now. Out. He's fired! He's fired," according to ESPN's Kevin Seifert.

Trump's comments led to a temporary uptick in protests across the NFL.

Goodell stood up for the players and called Trump's words "divisive" shortly thereafter.

Despite that, Goodell said in October that he believes "everyone should stand" during the national anthem.

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