May 23, 2018
After reports indicated NFL teams might be penalized on the field for protests during pre-game renditions of the national anthem, the league announced Wednesday that those punishments will be administered off it.
In a statement, Commissioner Roger Goodell laid out the league's new policy regarding anthem demonstrations, which have been conducted by players over the past two seasons in an effort to raise awareness about social justice and racial issues in the United States.
Under the new policy, teams will be fined if they do not "stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem." Players or other team personnel will have the option to remain off the field during the anthem and not be penalized.
Goodell said the league is still committed to working with players to "advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society."
"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," Goodell said.
The NFL Players' Association said the league had not consulted them on the new policy. The union said it would review the policy and challenge any part of it that was inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.
On Wednesday, it was reported that the league was considering instituting a 15-yard penalty against teams whose players knelt during the anthem. The NFL's announced policy includes no such punishment, but does add that the commissioner may impose additional, "appropriate discipline" against personnel.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins was among those who participated in protests during the anthem by raising his right fist in the air. Jenkins, a social activist who has lobbied on behalf of issues like prison reform, decided to stop his demonstrations this past season after the NFL agreed to commit $89 million to criminal justice reform.
He released a statement late Wednesday afternoon expressing his disappointment with the NFL's decision.
The protests began during the 2016-17 season when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality against black Americans. Dozens of NFL players on teams across the league later joined in on the protests during the 2017-18 season.
Jeffrey Lurie also chimed in later Wednesday, despite having voted with every other NFL owner (aside from the 49ers abstention) he voiced support for the players this rule could potentially silence.
“I have always believed it is the responsibility of sports teams to be very proactive in our communities," Lurie said in an official statement sent out by the Eagles organization. "In this great country of ours, there are so many people who are hurting and marginalized, which is why I am proud of our players for continuously working to influence positive change. Their words and actions have demonstrated not only that they have a great deal of respect for our country, but also that they are committed to finding productive ways to fight social injustice, poverty and other societal issues that are important to all of us. We must continue to work together in creative and dynamic ways to make our communities stronger and better with equal opportunities for all.”