NFL players and league personnel will be required to “stand and show respect for the flag” and the national anthem if they are on the field, according to a statement from the league’s commissioner on Wednesday.
But under the new policy, players who do not wish to stand for the anthem may stay off the field, giving people a way to demonstrate without the public spectacle that became a heated topic of national conversation last season.
“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room until after the Anthem has been performed,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it—and on our fans who enjoy it.”
The NFL will fine teams whose players do not stand and show respect for the anthem and flag while on the field. Anyone who does not stand for the anthem and flag on the field will be subject to “appropriate discipline” from the commissioner, according to the new policy.
Last season, dozens of players decided to kneel or otherwise demonstrate during the anthem to draw attention to police violence against minorities and the treatment of Colin Kaepernick, one of the first to protest that way. President Donald Trump said that players who don’t stand for the anthem should be fired.
The NFL Players Association said it wasn’t consulted on the new policy and vowed to “challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”
The new league policy doesn’t define what it means to show respect for the flag and anthem.