John Harbaugh on NFL's Anthem Policy: 'I Believe in Standing for the Flag'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2018

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh speaks during an NFL football news conference at the team's headquarters in Owings Mills, Md., Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018. The Ravens finished the 2017 season with a 9-7 record and missed the playoffs. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said he's a proponent of standing during the national anthem in the wake of the NFL's controversial new policy, which will require players on the field to stand through the "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games.

"I believe in standing for the flag," he said in a statement issued to CNN Thursday. "To me, the flag represents the ideas and the ideals that make us America. I also believe in the freedoms the flag represents and that people can speak for themselves. I know this: Our players respect the flag and what it represents. And, we're all proud at the Ravens of the work they do to make this community and country better."

On Wednesday, NFL owners approved a new policy that would allow for players to remain in the locker room during the anthem but would require players on the field to stand during its playing. The policy would allow the league to fine teams if players on the field did not stand during the anthem, and the teams could fine any players or team personnel who didn't abide by the new rules. 

"We want people to be respectful of the national anthem," commissioner Roger Goodell said, per Kevin Seifert and Dan Graziano of ESPN.com. "We want people to stand—that's all personnel—and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That's something we think we owe. [But] we were also very sensitive to give players choices."

NFL Players' Association executive director DeMaurice Smith criticized the decision, per ESPN.com:

"History has taught us that both patriotism and protest are like water; if the force is strong enough it cannot be suppressed. Today, the CEO's of the NFL created a rule that people who hate autocracies should reject.

"Management has chosen to quash the same freedom of speech that protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to prevent someone who does not wish to do so. The sad irony of this rule is that anyone who wants to express their patriotism is subject to the whim of a person who calls himself an 'Owner.' I know that not all of the NFL CEO's are for this and I know that true American patriots are not cheering today."

It's also possible the decision will inspire many NFL players who were unlikely to protest this upcoming season to change their tune, according to Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump—who threw a lit match on an already volatile debate with his divisive comments about the protests during the season—went so far as to question whether any protesting athletes should be in the country during an appearance on Fox and Friends Wednesday.

"Well, I think that's good. I don't think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still, I think it's good," he said (h/t Adam Edelman of NBCNews.com). "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country."

But those comments, and the NFL's decision in general, did not sit well with many people:

One thing remains certain: The conversation regarding the anthem and player protests isn't going away anytime soon.

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