As one of the most politically charged years in NFL history came to an end following the Super Bowl LII, the NFL was left with a pressing concern: what would their stance be on players kneeling, sitting, or raising a fist during the national anthem?
After months of speculation and several ideas being leaked to the media, a unanimous consensus was made by all 32 NFL owners on their stance towards the players’ protests during the anthem. Going forward for the 2018 season and beyond, the NFL’s game operations manual will require any players on the field to stand for the national anthem. It has not been made mandatory for players to be on the field during the anthem thus leaving an option for anyone to stay in the locker room if he wishes not to stand.
According to the new policy announced by NFL commissioner, Rodger Goodell, any act deemed as not showing appropriate respect for the anthem will lead to the NFL fining the team, not the player. Consequently, each NFL will have their own in-house rules towards any sort of protests that may occur.
“We want people to be respectful to the national anthem,” Goodell stated during the news conference on Wednesday. “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. We have been very sensitive in making sure we give players choices, but we do believe that that moment is important and one we are going to focus on.”
Overall, the verbiage issued in the NFL’s official statement is vague at best. With no one putting forth a clear definition of what “appropriate respect” for the flag actually entails, there is enough grey area for future issues to arise even with an official policy in place. Out of all the discussion on the anthem policy, one thing became clear.
Whatever state the nation may be when it pertains to the racial discourse, the NFL is a business first and foremost, and the owners will act in a way to best protect their profits while not damaging player relations.
“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic,” Goodell mentioned within a written statement. “This is not and was never the case.”
Essentially, the NFL owners have found the best way in their minds to protect their bottom line while not trying to be dismissive of the concerns expressed by their players. By effectively appeasing the fans that found an issue in the manner that the players protested while giving players the option to stay in the locker room, the NFL has created a scenario where they are fine with players expressing their opinions through protest as long as it is hidden away out of sight.
Granted, the NFL has been supportive of the efforts of players off the field advocating for social reform by going as far to commit millions to the cause. Despite that support, the recent policy has several players disappointed in the reality that fear of diminished profits has removed their platform for protest.