US National Football League to fine teams if athletes kneel during national anthem

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Friday, May 25, 2018

On Wednesday, the US National Football League (NFL) announced adopting a new policy of fining the clubs if their athletes knelt during the national anthem. Per the policy, athletes who do not wish to stand for the anthem are now permitted to stay in the locker room. Under the new policy, the commissioner can "impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem."

According to commissioner Roger Goodell, in their meeting in Atlanta NFL owners reached a unanimous decision. In the statement, Goodell said, "It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic [...] This is not and was never the case." Per the earlier policy, athletes had to be present on the sidelines of the field during the anthem.

Since 2016, when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the pre-match national anthem in a protest against racial discrimination, police brutality and shooting of African-Americans by policemen, multiple athletes have joined the protests taking a knee when the US national anthem — The Star-Spangled Banner — was played. Kaepernick then said, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour".

The NFL Players Association said the NFL did not consult them before announcing the policy. The day before the NFL's statement, the clubs agreed to donate 90 million US dollars (USD) to initiatives for social justice.

Eric Reid, a former teammate of Kaepernick who also took a knee during the national anthem, said, "I needed to use a platform to speak out for other people who didn't have a voice. So I joined Colin in protesting the issues in this country, which include police brutality, systemic oppression of black and brown people". He added, "This is not about disrespecting the military or the anthem. This is a way for me to bring awareness around these issues in our country."

The new policy now allows the clubs to devise their own provisions for fining or suspending the players. New York Jets' chairperson Christopher Johnson said, "There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that's just something I'll have to bear."

Owner of San Francisco 49ers Jed York abstained from voting for the NFL policy in Atlanta.

Former US president Barack Obama, in September 2016, said Kaepernick was "exercising his constitutional right". Current US president Donald Trump, in September 2017, called the athletes who knelt during the national anthem unpatriotic and "disgraceful". Trump also said, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired.'"

Regarding the new policy, Malcolm Jenkins, a defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles, said, "What NFL owners did today was thwart the players' constitutional rights to express themselves and use our platform to draw attention to social injustices like racial inequality in our country. Everyone loses when voices get stifled." His teammate Chris Long, who donated USD one million to charity last season, wrote on Twitter, "This is fear of a diminished bottom line. It's also a fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused."

Retired quarterback Sage Rosenfels tweeted saying, "I hope the NFL decides to completely stop all concession stand sales during the anthem as well. We wouldn't want people buying a $10 beer and an $8 hot dog during our sacred anthem. All TV camera crews must stop filming and direct attention at the flag too. Just seems fair." He later added, "Forced patriotism is the opposite of freedom."

About the new policy, Trump told Fox News, "You have to stand, proudly, for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing. You shouldn't be there. Maybe you shouldn't be in the country".

The NFL Player's Association said the union will "review the new 'policy' and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement."

Sources

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