Sports

The NFL Will Fine Players Who Protest During The National Anthem 

by Tod Perry

May 23, 2018

NFL owners just voted to fine people of color for protesting injustice against people of color.

The ruling was decided by a group of wealthy white owners and imposed on a league that is nearly 70% black. If the NFL wanted to stop the controversy surrounding on-field social justice protests, this decision will only bring more attention to the issue. 

On May 23, the NFL announced the new ruling, which states:

“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.”

In addition, teams can be fined for any personnel who “do not show proper respect for the flag and Anthem.”

According to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the ruling was to reverse the incorrect perceptions that the league and its players are unpatriotic while keeping the focus on the game:

“The policy adopted today was approved in concert with the NFL’s ongoing commitment to local communities and our country — one that is extraordinary in its scope, resources, and alignment with our players. We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society. The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed. The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We are honored to work with our players to drive progress. 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. This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem. 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.”

However, the NFL Players Association believes player protests are a sign of patriotism and vows to fight the decision:

The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘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 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.

If the league thought that player protests would magically go away by hiding them in locker rooms, it’s dead wrong. The media and the public will now shift their attention from who’s kneeling peacefully to who’s protesting in the locker room.

Plus, players who stand on the sidelines will still find ways to protest.

The ruling supports the right-wing, authoritarian narrative that suggests player protests are somehow unpatriotic or anti-military, even though numerous players who protested have publicly stated their support for the military and the belief that protesting injustice is actually a display of patriotism. 

In banning protests during the anthem, the league also sided with President Trump over its own players. At a September 2017 rally in Alabama, the president referred to a protesting player as a “son of a bitch.” 

The immediate reaction to the NFL’s decision has been resoundingly negative on Twitter:

Share image by Keith Allison/Flickr.

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