NFL owners unanimously approved a new policy that requires players on the field to stand for the national anthem, but gives them the option to stay in the locker room while the anthem is played, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Wednesday.
“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,” Goodell said in a statement.
“The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed,” Goodell added, but said the protests gave “a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic.”
The revised policy eliminates the current requirement for players to be on the field while the anthem is played. It was formally adopted by owners Wednesday at a league meeting in Atlanta.
The new rules allow each team to set its own policies for players who want to kneel, but the NFL can fine a team if its players protest on the field during the anthem.
In a statement posted on its website and on social media, the NFL Players Association said it was not consulted about the policy change.
“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy,’” the statement said.
The Players Association also took issue with Goodell’s claim that the protests made players appear unpatriotic.
“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 association stated.
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) May 23, 2018
The protests started in 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem at games to protest police brutality and racial inequality in the U.S.
Other players followed suit, sparking a national debate on the issue. But critics, including President Donald Trump, viewed kneeling during the anthem as disrespectful to the country.
In September 2017, Trump expressed his disapproval of the players’ actions in a series of tweets.
“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race,” he tweeted. “It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”
Below is Goodell’s full statement on the NFL policy change.
Statement from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pic.twitter.com/1Vn7orTo1R
— NFL (@NFL) May 23, 2018