In what seems like a sudden and knee-jerk reaction, the NFL has formally announced that players are now allowed to stay in their locker rooms during the national anthem. If the players decide to go on to the field and kneel, according to the new rules implemented by the league’s owners on Wednesday, they could potentially be fined by the league as well as their own club depending on their own team’s rules regarding the new policy.
Previously, players had been required to be on the field for the national anthem and did not have the option to remain in their locker rooms. The league is referring to this new policy as a “compromise,” but it seems like this deal was struck between the owners and the league, leaving the NFLPA in the lurch.
The NFL Players Association issued a statement after the new rule was announced.
How did we get here?
This new policies’ roots stemmed from 2016 when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem to protest social injustice, police brutality, and racism that he perceived was occurring in the United States. Soon after, numerous teammates joined him, and eventually, several other players from various other teams began kneeling. This continued well into last season, reaching its peak when the entire Steelers team stayed in their locker room for the national anthem, sans Alejandro Villanueva.
The movement was eventually criticized by President Donald Trump in September of last year, claiming that these protests were disrespectful to the U.S. military members and that he felt ashamed. This caused an uproar among the citizens of the United States and firmly brought this topic into the national spotlight.
How did this all go down?
Every year representatives from the NFL and the Team owners gather at the spring league meeting to discuss potential reformation to a myriad of issues. This year’s hot topic was obviously the protesting. After throwing out a countless amount of ideas including a 15-yard penalty for kneeling, or allowing the home team to define the policy each week, the group eventually came to the agreement that will give the players the option to remain in the locker room or come out and stand for the anthem. The policy was passed unanimously by owners, but there were owners, like 49ers Jed York, who abstained from the process.
What does this all mean?
The league finally concluded a matter that’s been irking them for almost two full years now. While I am not here to judge if the kneeling or the rule itself is just, I do think the way the league and owners handled putting the rule together was unfair.
The NFLPA should have had some sort of input in this situation. It seems like the league left the association out of these talks in an effort to get the policy passed swiftly and without much opposition. This could cause a lot of problems down the road, including a huge one in 2021. The Collective bargaining agreement is up after the 2020 season, and if you do not think the NFLPA will bring up this, you are crazy.
The NFL should not have given the teams as much autonomy in the new policy as they did. Allowing teams to set the rules on the new policy just seems like a disaster waiting to happen and could cause rifts between the owners themselves! While I understand there were good intentions behind getting this new policy to pass, but I believe the execution and some aspects are still lacking. A huge swing and a miss for the NFL.