It looks to be the end of kneeling during the National Anthem for players in the NFL. The league is introducing a new policy that all players and personnel on the field must stand during the National Anthem. If a player kneels then that team and individual player faces fines and possibly other punishments imposed by the teams themselves. Despite provisions that allow players to remain in the locker room if they wish to protest, this change has drawn a lot of criticism.
Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement that said the policy change was unanimously voted on by the 32 team owners. However, this appears to be false since it is now being reported that an unofficial tally was held, not a formal vote. San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York and Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) Raiders owner Mark Davis has come out and said they abstained from the poll. The word is that the league apparently knew how teams would vote and went off of that as opposed to a formal vote procedure. Voting is the typical process held with any policy change.
The NFL Players Association came out with their own statement. According to them, they were never consulted on a policy change, especially one as controversial as this. There is supposed to be a collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA that means the NFLPA should’ve been informed of something like this. However, this new rule is going to be a part of the league’s game operations manual, thereby meaning it is not subjected to collective bargaining.
The move does have some support behind it, most notably from President Donald Trump. President Trump stated that he is behind the move. He has been vehemently opposed to the kneeling protests for some time now, going so far as to say the players are a bad image for the league and should be removed. It is rumored that he used his influence to push this rule through. If that is the case, there may be grounds to void the policy change since it is illegal for a government official to use his influence to shape private corporations’ decisions regarding employees.
Most people are against the move. They see it as an infringement on constitutional rights. While the NFL is a private corporation and therefore can implement a policy regarding its employees, this tiptoes into their employees’ civil rights. According to the Constitution, NFL players technically have the right to free speech. Some feel that their actions are disrespectful, while others believe the NFL is playing the ‘disrespectful’ card in order to promote their own agenda.
Whatever the case may be, this rule may end up being pulled back before it gets a chance in action. Since the news broke, owners have been distancing themselves from the supposed vote and the media has turned this issue into a frenzy. If the NFL wanted to avoid bad PR, they picked a terrible way to go about it. The NFLPA may also have something to say about it if they find any collective bargaining agreements. We’ll provide any updates on this story as they come in.