Today's Paper Latest stories Obits Rex Nelson Wally Hall Brummett online Traffic Newsletters Weather Puzzles
story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2017, file photo, San Francisco 49ers San Francisco 49ers' Eli Harold (57), Eric Reid (35) and Marquise Goodwin (11) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, in Houston. President Donald Trump's feud with the NFL about players kneeling during the national anthem is the runaway winner for the top sports story of 2017 in balloting by AP members and editors. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

ATLANTA — NFL owners approved a new policy Wednesday aimed at quelling the firestorm over protests during the national anthem sparked by Colin Kaepernick and polarized by President Trump, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the "The Star-Spangled Banner" but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said the change was approved unanimously by the owners at their spring meeting in Atlanta, but even that was up for debate.

The head of the San Francisco 49ers — Kaepernick's former team — said his franchise abstained from the vote. CEO Jed York said he wasn't comfortable with a process that didn't directly involve the players.

"I want to work with my team to make sure everything we do is about promoting the right types of social justice reform and getting to a better America," York said.

The NFL Players Association said it wasn't consulted about the new policy and would challenge any changes that violate the collective bargaining agreement.

"We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand," Goodell said. "We've been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on."

Any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team — not the players.

The league did say teams could impose their own workplace rules for those who fail to show respect for the flag and anthem but didn't say what those policies might be.

The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue — which made it all the way to the White House.

Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback, began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.

Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to land a job with another team.

Trump turned the debate into a campaign issue, saying the NFL should fire any player who takes a knee during "The Star-Spangled Banner." The NFL hasn't gone that far, but Kaepernick has yet to land another job and one of his former teammates and fellow protester safety Eric Reid is also out of work.

Both have filed collusion grievances against the NFL.

While the owners touted the change as a compromise that everyone should get behind, the union expressed immediate skepticism.

"The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new 'policy,'" the NFLPA said in a statement. "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 added, "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 [co-owner of the New York Giants] about the principles, values and patriotism of our League."

York said he intended to meet with his players to discuss the change.

"They know I will stand up for them. I've stood up for them in past, I will stand up for them in the future," York said. "I hope we can have a good, respectful conversation: Is it the best policy for us to write a check to the league [for further on-field protests] or can we find a better way to use this money."

The NFL started requiring players to be on the field for the anthem in 2009 — the year it signed a marketing deal with the military.

York said other initiatives were in the works, including a suspension of all concessions sales during the national anthem.

"If we want to be sacrosanct, if we want to honor the flag, we've got to make sure we go through a litany of things," he said. "We're not going to force people to stand in their seats, but we're certainly going to make sure we're not profiting during that two or three minutes of time during the game."

Steelers guard Ramon Foster shrugged his shoulders when asked about the new policy, saying the owners will always hold an upper hand over the players.

"If the team says 'this is what we're doing,' and ownership [does too], you either deal with it or you're probably going to get cut," Foster said. "You can fight the resistance on that one, but same as we can't smoke marijuana because it's illegal in certain states, or it's legal in certain states, it's the same issue. You have to adhere to the rules and if not, they'll find a way to get you up out of there."

Goodell took a more conciliatory path. He insisted the league met with countless players over the last year to get their input on the fractious anthem debate anthem, which some have even pointed to as a major reason for the NFL's declining TV ratings.

"We think that we've come up with a balanced process, procedure and policy that will allow those players who feel they can't stand for the anthem to stay in the locker room," the commissioner said. "There's no penalty for that, but we're going to encourage all of them to be on field. We'd like for all of them to be on the field and stand at attention."

Goodell was asked who would get to decide what actions would be considered disrespectful to the anthem or the U.S. flag.

"Well, I think the general public has a very strong view of what respect for the flag is and that moment," he said. "We have language in our policy that talks about that, standing attention, hats off and focused. And I think the general arbiter will the clubs and the league and we'll work with our players to get their viewpoint also."

Sponsor Content


You must be signed in to post comments
  • Vickie55
    May 23, 2018 at 12:55 p.m.

    It seems that a fairly simple solution would be for the networks to stop broadcasting the anthem, and for media to stop reporting on it. The broadcasters can continue discussing last week's game until time for the kickoff.

  • GeneralMac
    May 23, 2018 at 1:25 p.m.

    It would still be visible to the many thousands of people who paid big bucks $$$$$$$$$$$ for those overpriced tickets.

    I object to athletes doing their protesting in front of a captive audience.
    One that has already paid $$$$$$$$$$ big bucks for that seat.

    If the athletes feel that strongly, let them protest out in public where people can walk away, applaud them, or debate them.

    Using a captive audience is a cowards way of protesting.

  • GeneralMac
    May 23, 2018 at 1:46 p.m.

    Just like the Lady Razorbacks were cowards for doing their anthem protest in front of a captive crowd.

    If they had courage, they would have protested in the streets and on THEIR own time.

    Their coach who was " very, very, proud of them " could have joined them.

  • mrcharles
    May 23, 2018 at 3:53 p.m.

    If a cancer patient undergoing chemo wears a hat to cover up bald head, is that disrespectful? Is is disrespectful to fly confederate flags on your pick um truck ? Is it disrespectful to think when the anthem is playing? Shouldn't we all be required to sing all the stanzas of the anthem in a free democratic county under penalty of law or face confiscation of children and property?

    Should we allow Negroes to play our feetball or set next to white women?

    Can all just not look or turn away, like some mammals have suggested as to the Idol of stone being place on our capitol grounds that every one is perplexed about?

    Dont christians want jews to bend their knee? What if the rapture comes during a game, do the players accept a 15 yard penalty or do they choose to fly up to heaven with the flying jewish zombie?

    Is this not a PC police state tactic?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • LRDawg
    May 23, 2018 at 5:05 p.m.

    Yea our LadyBacks team never missed a beat after the protest. Oh wait, 6 players transferred(1 played in the NC game for Miss. St) our best player wouldn't take floor, the coach was fired at the end of that season, and i don't think we've won 15 games in the 2 seasons following that preseason game. Stopping the protest made the LadyBacks irrelevant and may have killed the program. No big time players will be on the field until kickoff. The NFL made a huge we saw with our LadyBacks program

  • GeneralMac
    May 23, 2018 at 5:21 p.m.

    DAWG...........the coach who said he was " very , very proud of them " has been fired and no longer coaching.

    For that I am......." very, very,"..........happy.

  • GeneralMac
    May 23, 2018 at 5:34 p.m.

    Wait until those Lady Razorbacks enter the real world.

    They will find out if their employer has a very small customer base, it is not wise for them to do something to alienate the few customers he has.

    If they were not cowards, they would have been protesting in public on their own time.

  • Popsmith
    May 23, 2018 at 6:37 p.m.

    Fans vote with their wallets. The NFL got the message.

  • gagewatcher
    May 23, 2018 at 6:40 p.m.

    I don't think the NFL and their overpriced boys can regain their Mojo

  • 3WorldState1
    May 23, 2018 at 6:40 p.m.

    Gen is a moron. I've been to games. You cant even see the players kneeling, until you are told about it afterwards. Here's how you fix it. Thanks to South Park:
    Before the Anthem, the loud speaker comes on and says, " Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand, kneel or sit to show respect for our National anthem." Fixed.
    And now the Douche Bag VP is making it Political again.