NFL owners consider enforcing standing during anthem

It's only been a short few weeks since President Trump's war with the NFL's protests, and the owners seem set to protect themselves, not stand with their players

Unity? Free speech? Not so much.

After President Trump’s divisive comments about a trend that was dying out and the NFL’s strong, unified response that saw owners stand, and even kneel, together with their players in defense of free expression, it seems it has only taken two weeks for the NFL owners to start protecting themselves.

"consider" does not mean "implement", but it is a worrying sign for the free expression of players, and a step toward an even more authoritarian league. Let's not forget that this is a league that has grossly mishandled it's disciplinary procedure in recent years, who's appeal process is run by the same guy that handed down the initial sentence, and that already has very thin player protection compared to the rest of the major professional leagues.

You might think that players would have some say over this given the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the players union and the league, but seemingly they would not.

As pointed out during this entire controversy, the NFL has not always had it's players on the field, never mind fly-overs and broadcasted anthems. It was only in 2009 that the teams came out for the anthem. The league has received millions from the Department of Defense for increased emphasis on patriotism and the lionization of the military.

And that is where this gets very, very sticky.

Just last year the NFL returned $723,000 for sponsored military tributes, and when free speech starts affecting the bottom line of the NFL's ever-growing revenue, it would seem that the owners will protect their own interests, not the freedom of expression of their players.

The protests, initially aimed at racial injustice in policing, have turned into defense of free speech thanks to the president's comments. While it has sent some fans, publicly at least, away from the league due to its "disrespect" for the flag, the country, or the army, it is important to remember what the act of one player kneeling during a song represents right now, and that is self-expression, the right to hold private believes and non-violently display them.

If the league really does impose this rule it will be clear where the NFL owners actually stand, and that is next to their own bank balances, not their players.

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Toby Durant

Deputy Editor at RealSport. A life-long gamer, I have been with RealSport since 2016 and spent time covering the world of Formula 1, NFL, and football for the site before expanding into esports.


I lead the site's coverage of motorsport titles with a particular focus on Formula 1. I also lead RealSport's Madden content while occasionally dipping my toe into Football Manager and esports coverage of Gfinity Series events.