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NFL Caves To Trump, Issues New Rule Forcing Players To Stand During National Anthem Or Face Punishment

NFL team owners decided on Wednesday that players must stand during the National Anthem this season, a move to suppress freedom of speech and prevent players from protesting by taking a knee in symbolic opposition to the systemic oppression of people of color, including by police.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during a news conference at the meeting in Atlanta that teams whose players and personnel do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem will be fined by the league.

Each team may develop its own work rules regarding players or personnel who do not comply with the policy, which could include fines. The new policy — which was approved unanimously by team owners — does give players the option to remain in the locker room during the playing of the anthem if they do not wish to comply.

With this change, the NFL’s game operations manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the anthem. Previously, there had been no rule that prevented players from protesting.

The decision by owners stems from the silent protests that began in 2016, when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem to draw attention to injustice. It also brought the wrath of President Donald Trump, who in 2017 said players’ kneeling “should be fired.”

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.

The move also came as two free-agent players, Kaepernick and Eric Reid, have filed separate grievances against the league, citing collusion in denying them jobs. Kaepernick and Reid both kneeled during the National Anthem when they were 49ers teammates, and Reid continued his protest last season. Kaepernick has been a free agent since March 2017.


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