NFL owners unanimously approved a new policy on Wednesday that requires players and league personnel on the sideline to stand for the national anthem but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they desire.
The policy subjects teams to a fine if a player or any other personnel do not show respect for the anthem. Those clubs will also have the option to fine any team personnel for the infraction.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said the six changes under the policy were approved by team owners at the league meetings in Atlanta. San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York said he abstained from voting, in part, due to the lack of player involvement in the decision process, per NFL Network’s Steve Wyche.
“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” 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.”
Goodell outlined the new anthem-policy rules as agreed upon by the owners in his statement:
“1. All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
“2. The Game Operations Manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the anthem.
“3. 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.
“4. 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.
“5. 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.
“6. The Commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.”
The NFL Players Association was quick to issue a statement on the heels of the new policy.
“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy,'” the statement read. “NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.
“The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.
“Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”
The anthem issue has been a divisive one, with some feeling players not standing for the song is disrespectful to, among others, the U.S. military. Others feel it is the players’ right to protest perceived social injustice peacefully.
The change in policy comes after some players elected against standing for the national anthem.
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement in 2016 to kneel during the national anthem as a protest to denounce police brutality against African-Americans, social injustice and racial inequality.
Kaepernick and former 49ers safety Eric Reid have both filed collusion cases against the league after failing to land jobs as free agents.
The anthem topic became a central issue for the NFL after President Trump criticized the movement during a speech last September, stating players should be fired for not standing.
“We’re proud of our country. We respect our flag,” Trump said to loud applause at the campaign event in Alabama. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired! He’s fired!'”