NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer, it was announced Wednesday.
The new policy subjects teams to a fine if a player or any other team personnel do not show appropriate respect for the anthem. That includes any attempt to sit or kneel, as dozens of players have done during the past two seasons. Those teams will also have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction.
“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room until after the Anthem has been performed.
“We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our fans who enjoy it.”
A vote took place at the conclusion of the league’s spring meetings and was approved by all 32 owners.
The requirement that all players be on the field during the playing of the national anthem will be removed from the league’s Game Operations Manual, allowing for those who wish not to stand to remain in the locker room or “a similar location off the field” until the playing of the national anthem is complete.
Goodell said the NFL is “dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.”
After spending months in discussions, owners believe this found a compromise that will end sitting or kneeling with an edict that stops short of requiring every player to stand.
The previous policy required players to be on the field for the anthem but said only that they “should” stand. When then- San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling to protest police brutality in 2016, the league had no rule it could use to prevent it. The movement drew increasing criticism from President Donald Trump, as well as many fans, who believed it was a sign of disrespect toward the flag and country.
The new policy is an adjustment to the NFL’s game operations manual and thus does not need to be collectively bargained.