After punting the issue at the annual meeting in March, NFL owners passed a resolution to prevent players from protesting on the field during the National Anthem.
In deference to the reader’s intelligence, I will forego summarizing how we got to this point.
Decisions will be left up to the team as to what they require their players to do, but the league has made it optional to be on the field for the Anthem, and that players that are on the field “shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem,” as stated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Next sentence: “It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.” In other words, there was no disrespect in the first place.
There was really a no-win situation for the NFL, but this pivoted far from the totally ill-advised trial balloon floated yesterday that 15-yard fouls would be assessed for silent protest. The policies and the gameday manuals of the league indicate that the teams would be on the field as a broadcast/logistics matter, but not in the context of player protests.
The manuals further address the Anthem logistics, such as having flags in good condition and having an organized and respectful ceremony. These are intended as operational instructions, and not an area to house any “governing” policies, which are attached as resolutions to the league’s constitution and bylaws. Any references that state that players are compelled to be on the field will be revised.
The broad language of the policy seems to encircle any perceived statement during the Anthem, even though players are standing.
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
The players union was not consulted, although the policy appears to be crafted in a way to not touch any electrified rails in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Players are not bound by the policies in the gameday manuals, because they are not part of the CBA and aren’t even given to the players in the first place.
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) May 23, 2018
In the end, it is still another punt by the NFL’s 32 owners. While they are contributing a significant amount of money ($90 million in matching funds) to a “players coalition” to address social-justice issues, they have stopped the teakettle from whistling by removing the whistle.
The policy passed by the owners is below.
NFL policy resolution on National Anthem
The 32 member clubs of the National Football League have reaffirmed their strong commitment to work alongside our players to strengthen our communities and advance social justice. The unique platform that we have created is unprecedented in its scope, and will provide extraordinary resources in support of programs to promote positive social change in our communities.
The membership also strongly believes that:
- All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
- The Game Operations Manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the Anthem.
- Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the Anthem has been performed.
- A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
- Each club may develop its own work rules, consistent with the above principles, regarding its personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
- The Commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.