The NFL announced Wednesday that players are no longer required to be on the field during the performance of the national anthem prior to games, but if they are they must stand or risk their teams being fined.
League commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement that protests during the anthem “created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.” He thinks the policy change will “keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it.”
The NFL Players Association said the owners didn’t approach the union as they formulated the new policy. They think the policy is contradictory and they plan to challenge it in the event it violates the collective bargaining agreement the two parties have agreed to.
What are people saying around the league?
Shortly after the NFL announced the change, news broke that 49ers owner Jed York was the only person to abstain from the vote, which the league said passed unanimously.
49ers owner Jed York said that he abstained from the NFL owners vote on the new anthem policy, in part, because he wanted to hear more from players. He added that he may halt concession sales at Levi’s Stadium during the playing of the anthem.
— Steve Wyche (@wyche89) May 23, 2018
One CEO, the Jets’ Christopher Johnson, already said he won’t be forcing his players to pay that fine. There hasn’t been any indication from the league about what those fines will amount to.
Despite new anthem policy, Jets chairman Christopher Johnson said his players can take a knee if they choose, without fear of team-issued fines. https://t.co/Qj5z86jwSw
— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) May 23, 2018
“I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players,” he told Newsday. “Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest.”
He went on to say that “if the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”
The policy dictates that any team personnel on the field — including players — who are on the field during the anthem must “stand and show respect.” But what does that mean?
Steelers owner Art Rooney has a broad definition.
Art Rooney of the Steelers said while it was not defined, he believes that raising a fist and linking arms during the playing of the anthem also would constitute disrespect of the anthem.
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) May 23, 2018
That would mean that protests like Malcolm Jenkins’ last year would violate the new policy. But who gets to decide what “stand and show respect” means? It’s one of the many questions that came out of the days news.
Jenkins, for his part, said he disagreed with the decision. But he doesn’t plan to let it shrink the “platform to draw attention to social injustices” that he and his colleagues have now.
— Malcolm Jenkins (@MalcolmJenkins) May 23, 2018
The Eagles’ Chris Long had something to say too: he think the league “continues to fall short” on the issue of protest.
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) May 23, 2018
Long’s statement echos the argument Bob Ford made: that the league, while absolving itself of the need to discipline players, is mostly concerned that owners think on-field protests are bad for business.
As ProFootballTalk notes, the Cowboys are one of the only teams who hasn’t had a player protest. The response from some Cowboys today was noncommittal at best.
“I’m glad they came to an agreement,” Quarterback Dak Prescott said. “I’ll be out there standing.”