How Will the New NFL National Anthem Policy Affect Next Season?
The pro football world was shaken up considerably when NFL executives agreed to a new policy that would require players to stand during the playing of the National Anthem or wait in the locker room, with a fine being issued to those who violate it along with a potential yardage penalty. As if the ruling itself weren’t controversial enough, several more revelations including that no formal vote was held by the owners during the discussion process, as well as Donald Trump‘s alleged influence on the decision, have only served to escalate tensions which were already incredibly high.
For the time being, the biggest question surrounding this whole debacle is just how it might affect the upcoming 2018-19 NFL season. Well, I can tell you with all but the utmost of certainty that it is not going to be pretty. Just take a look at how last season developed, when player were allowed to kneel during the National Anthem. Players, owners, and league executives were constantly at each other’s throats, and it almost seemed as if some new controversial statement was coming from one end or the other every day. The protests perhaps reached a peak after Trump said that any player who kneels is a “son of a bitch,” which was entirely counterproductive on his part, as it ultimately resulted in just about every player and coach (and even some owners) taking a knee during their upcoming games.
But now at seems as though the progress which was being made on the owners’ parts has been erased with this new ruling, and players and their representatives are not happy about it.
Upon hearing that no vote was held on the new policy NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said that it, “Suggests to me that this was more of a desperate attempt by a group of owners to simply quote-unquote ‘get back to playing football’ rather than to honestly and with a sense of what America means, to sit down and figure out what’s the right thing to do. What I think they did was they sat down and tried to figure out, ‘What can we get away with as quickly as possible?’”
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) May 23, 2018
It’s like the owners don’t care about the players’ rights to free speech and protest and were simply looking for a quick fix to something which they deemed a problem. This is a rather blatant display of NFL higher-ups simply disregarding their players in order to make their own lives easier, and it’s something of which the players are very much aware. Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith indicated that the new policy makes Colin Kaepernick‘s initial protests seem in vain, setting the league back tremendously.
“Appropriate respect for flag and anthem” implies that guys were being disrespectful towards it. Which is an opinion. Most people who believe that ignore the responses from the players and more importantly why men chose to protest. https://t.co/j7nyw2Lkai
— Torrey Smith (@TorreySmithWR) May 23, 2018
This whole ordeal spells nothing but bad news for the NFL. The players are not happy, and will likely not be happy until a major change is made. I expect a good majority of players to do one of two things: either they will stay in the locker room during the National Anthem, or they will continue to kneel until a new policy is passed. In a very extreme hypothetical, but I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see some sort of player strike take place. Again, that’s very extreme, but certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
Ultimately, I do not think the NFL will benefit from this decision at all. This will not save their ratings from dropping (although NFL games are still among the most popular television programs in the United States), nor will it serve to settle player-owner relations. The 2018-19 season will likely be a mess of controversy among all of the NFL entities, and while we’ll still probably have some great football to watch, the new National Anthem policy will be looming over every person involved in every game, whether they are on the field, in a front office, in the stands, or at home. Unless something changes, this is not going to be pretty.