NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith believes the NFL's change in policy on the national anthem is designed to exert control on players.
During an appearance Friday on ESPN's Get Up! show, Smith expressed his concerns regarding the new anthem rules:
With regard to the rationale behind the policy, Smith told ESPN's Mike Greenberg (h/t Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith), "It smacks as more of a desire to exert control rather than a desire to stand up and support the rights and freedoms that our country was founded on."
The NFL approved a new policy Wednesday that will fine teams if their players protest on the sidelines during the national anthem before games.
As part of the rule, players will be permitted to stay in the locker room during the anthem if they choose.
The NFLPA released a statement Wednesday regarding the league's decision:
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN on Thursday that no official vote was held before pushing the policy into action.
On Friday, Smith suggested that owners weren't fully unified on the policy, saying, "It doesn't appear to have the full support of all of the CEOs who own teams. It punishes not only players who wish to protest but also could punish players who want to come out and stand and salute the flag."
Per ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert, San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York abstained from taking part in the unofficial vote. Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group reported Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis also abstained.
Then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the act of protesting during the national anthem by kneeling in the 2016 season.
Kaepernick has remained unsigned since the end of the 2016 season, when he left the 49ers after spending the year as the team's starter.
As part of the new anthem policy, teams will be permitted to discipline players who breach the new rules under the collective bargaining agreement.