NFLPA Fires Back Over Passage Of New National Anthem Policy

Federico Mansilla
May 24, 2018

Ownership approved a new policy that requires players to stand during the playing of the national anthem but also allows players to "stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the Anthem has been performed".

Players choosing not to stand during the national anthem must remain in the locker room for the entire performance, or face a team fine.

The former standout created controversy in 2016 when he chose to kneel for the national anthem in protest of racial injustice in the U.S. He failed to sign with a new team in 2017 and so far in 2018 despite throwing 16 touchdown passes and completing 59 percent of his passes in his last season with the Niners.

However, Johnson said Jets' players are free to protest without fear of National Football League or team fines. "This is not and was never the case", Goodell said.

The NFL Players Association says it was not consulted about the new policy before owners voted on it.

"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", a statement from league commissioner Roger Goodell read. "If there are changes to the policy that put players in a position where they could be disciplined or fined, we are going to do what we always do - fight anything that encroaches on players' rights to the end". The clubs were given the power to create their own rules dealing with their players, coaches and other staff.

Paradis says that "they are the employers, so if they want to create a stipulation, we'll go from there". That was the approach taken by owners when they met last October in NY and did not change the previous anthem policy.

The rule applies to the WNBA as well, but when players on several teams took a knee during the anthem last September, they were not fined or penalized in anyway.

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Much of the protesting had stopped until President Donald Trump injected himself into the conversation, saying players who kneel should be fired. In that scenario, the home team would decide whether both teams would come out of the locker room for "The Star-Spangled Banner". "And I think the general arbiter will the clubs and the league and we'll work with our players to get their viewpoint also".

In recent months, the league has worked toward a reported $90 million social justice partnership with the Players Coalition, using the NFL's platform to highlight players' efforts to curb injustice and to use political connections to push for legislative change.

"If anyone is on the field and is disrespectful to the anthem or the flag, there will be a fine from the league against the team", Goodell told reporters.

"We're not forcing anybody to stand who doesn't feel like it", Rooney said. "We do believe that moment is important to focus on".

There is a policy that states players "should" stand for the anthem but that rule is not in the collective bargaining agreement, but is filed instead under the league's game operations manual, which doesn't need to be collectively bargained.

In the book - which he co-wrote with The Nation sports editor Dave Zirin and was released last month - Bennett wrote "I'm going to keep sitting and using the space during the anthem to protest".

The kneeling began with quarterback Colin Kaepernick who did so to protest police brutality throughout the nation.

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