NFL: National anthem policy likely won’t help matters much

League requiring players to stand for anthem or wait in locker room if preferred only fanning the fire of a lingering issue.

(Photo credit: Keith Allison)

The NFL announced this week its official policy regarding the national anthem, a decision that was approved by league owners. The gist is that all players or team personnel on the field must stand during the playing of the anthem, however they also have the option to remain in the locker room during that time if preferred.

On the surface, its sounds like the NFL intended to provide balance. Plus, teams individually can determine their own punishment should a player or staff member not follow that policy.

Sound good? Everyone happy? Don’t think so. Apparently, commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL still don’t get it.

We’ve heard league owners say they expect their teams to honor the flag and anthem while still not wanting to take away a player’s right to peacefully protest issues such as social and racial injustice. However, through this latest development, it seems the players’ actions are still OK, only if out of sight, thus out of mind. Declined ratings and attendance at games is a natural concern for owners and the league, but the circumstances surrounding the national anthem are not the sole reason for the league’s popularity dip, but it’s an easy scapegoat at the moment.

And it begins

Almost immediately after the NFL announced its policy, player reaction poured in. Philadelphia Eagles stars Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long, two of the more visible protesters in the past, were not pleased with the NFL’s official stance. Meanwhile, New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson plans to support any of his players who don’t follow the policy, at least those who do so respectfully. 

One NFL contributor here at RealSport has also offered an opinion on the policy:

I believe that the NFL rule change on the national anthem is a bad business decision, but not because of the politics. While everyone in America does have a right to protest, there is a time and a place to do it and the football field isn’t one of them. Also, the actual message that the players wanted to send started to become hidden by the protest themselves. That problem is that the NFL has blamed the protests as the biggest reason why fans turned off the TV, when in reality the problem was the over saturation of very mediocre football. – Claude Williams.

Should there ever be a compromise?

One certainty regarding this issue is that there will never be a true compromise. Yes, owners need to worry about the bottom of line but not at the expense of their employee’s right to peacefully express concerns for larger, more important issues involving the big picture. Then again, as mentioned above, is the football field even the right place to take a stand? Honestly, any public arena, sports related or otherwise, is fair game.

There are reports that claim a higher power, specifically President Donald Trump, was at work after his past comments against those who kneeled during the anthem. Whether the NFL was bullied into making this policy is not really the point, the fact that there needs to be a policy at all remains the issue. But the league had to maintain some semblance of authority, and it should expect the reaction that’s followed.

What we can agree on is that this debate won’t end. It will probably just become more passionate. 

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