The NFL announced on Wednesday that teams will be fined going forward for kneeling during the national anthem before games as a form of protest.

NFL To Fine Players For Anthem Protests

New York Times report said players would receive fines for kneeling both on the sidelines or on the field, although players who decide to stay in the locker room will not be punished. The league did not specify how large the fines would be.

The development follows a Sports Illustrated report from Tuesday that said NFL owners convened in Atlanta to discuss potential responses to anthem protests and had weighed issuing 15-yard penalties for such actions. According to The Washington Post on Wednesday, team owners agreed to approve a new policy regarding anthem protests “that gives individual teams the authority to set their own anthem-related rules and permits players to remain in the locker room during the playing of the anthem.”


“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” NFL Commissioner Roger 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.”

Goodell famously switched his position on anthem protests late last year. He seemed willing to accept the protests at first, then pushed to limit them.

“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of N.F.L. players were unpatriotic,” Goodell told the Times on Wednesday. “This is not and was never the case.”

National anthem protests have become a controversial subject since Colin Kaepernick first sat during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner before a preseason game with the San Francisco 49ers in August 2016 as a way to make a statement about racial inequality and police brutality against minorities. Kaepernick was released by the 49ers in early 2017 and has since been unable to rejoin the league, although the former quarterback has earned several accolades from non-profit organizations since then. His protest has been replicated not just in the NFL, but in other major sports leagues as well.

President Donald Trump and his administration have been some of the protests’ strongest critics, along with many other conservative Americans. Trump said locking arms was an acceptable form of protest, but sitting or kneeling were not. The president threatened to issue penalties to teams and players who protested, and even said that if he was an owner, he would fire these types of players.

“Get that son of a b— off the field!” said Trump. “You’re fired!”

On Monday, Trump hosted NASCAR Cup series champion Martin Truex Jr.and in a speech partly praised Truex and NASCAR for not engaging in anthem protests.

Kaepernick filed a grievance in December against all 32 NFL team owners accusing them of collusion to bar him from the league. He has also reportedly been seeking a one-on-one meeting with Goodell, although no such encounter has yet occurred.

The NFL Players Association, the league’s union, also issued a statement Wednesday about the new anthem protests policy.

“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 statement read. “Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

According to the Times, several NFL players advocated in support of Kaepernick at an NFL meeting last month about anthem protests.

Meanwhile, some team owners have recognized that Trump is fueling more divisiveness in the country with his rhetoric about the protests.

“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” said New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”

Kraft’s statement is particularly noteworthy because he has long been a friend of Trump’s.

The NFL also approved rule changes to two aspects of football games on Tuesday: use of the helmet and kickoffs. New rules state that players can be ejected for tackling other players with their helmets if officials determine that contact was clearly avoidable and that the player who committed the tackle had other options.

Also, new rules dictate that kickoffs will be made more like punts and limit full-speed crashes between players when attempting to tackle and/or recover the ball.


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