The NFL Will Require Athletes to Stand for the National Anthem

When San Francisco 49ers athlete Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the national anthem in 2016, it set off a firestorm of controversy — and a very necessary national conversation. Now, the NFL has decided to suppress that discussion with by requiring players to stand for the anthem, or wait in the locker room.

Violations of the policy will result in fines for the team, in a chilling attempt to discourage individual athletes from opting to sit or kneel.

The kneeling protests, which began with black football players, have since spread to soccer and basketball as well — and occasionally even the singer performing the anthem has opted to kneel.

While kneeling is provocative, it’s not, athletes argue, disrespectful. After all, they aren’t making noise, holding up signs or being disruptive during the performance of the anthem and the presentation of the flag. Of particular note: Veterans aren’t interested in being used as rhetorical tools, and they’ve spoken out about viewing peaceful protest as an American ideal — even joining the protests themselves.

Athletes are simply observing that there are fundamental inequalities in the United States, and they’re opting to use nonviolent protest to draw the public’s attention to the issue. The outrage over these protests has highlighted a common belief that athletes should “shut up and play,” and that they’re only present for entertainment.

Yet, athletes — just like everyone else — live in American society. Black athletes and their family members have been profiled and harassed by police. They could be pulled over and shot by police on their way home from a game, or arrested for unlocking their own front doors. This is a personal and a political issue for them.

Athletes are also aware that as people with large fan bases, their words and actions carry weight — particularly for young people who may look up to them as role models. Some athletes feel that failing to speak out would betray their values — it would be unjust to remain silent when they could make a difference.

The NFL stated: “This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” and the Vice President crowed smugly about a “win” in response to the news. But he NAACP claims this is a move to “silence” players. The decision stands in stark hypocrisy with the NFL’s line about “social justice” — suppressing free speech is hardly a just act.

Players may now opt to stay in the locker room — forcing teams into locker rooms has been used as a tactic to silence this protest in the past — or take the field and decide whether to kneel despite the NFL policy. At least one team owner has said he’ll cover the cost of any fines incurred by athletes who kneel. The NFL president, meanwhile, has implied that people who wish to kneel through the anthem shouldn’t even be allowed to play – or, possibly, be in the country at all.

Compulsory flag worship sets a dangerous precedent. As a representation of the United States, the flag stands for all its values — including the right to protest injustice, and the obligation to right wrongs.

Suppressing athletes won’t make the underlying problems they’re talking about go away. One can only hope that the conservatives who have been complaining about restrictions on their free speech – despite the regular dedication of ample column inches to their hateful rhetoric — will be swift to condemn this move, which limits the ability of NFL athletes to fully participate in public life.

The next step for the national anthem protests remains to be seen, as official football season begins this fall. Will athletes take the knee in defiance? Will outcry push the NFL to reverse this draconian and unjust policy?

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Join the Care2 activists in calling on major advertising sponsors to pull their support of the NFL.

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Photo credit: Keith Allison

62 comments

Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

Thanks.

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Elaine W
Elaine W10 months ago

Not all players are paid lots of money to play. You can look up amounts on team websites.

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Elaine W
Elaine W10 months ago

So this is not a free country after all and what does the national anthem have to do with football. I thought the NFL was a commercial money making franchise and not a government sponsored activity. Are we all going to be forced to stand for the anthem before work at the office now.

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Amanda M
Amanda M10 months ago

Petition signed and I plan to boycott the NFL this season! As a Wiccan who can't in good conscience say the words "under God" when reciting the Pledge on the grounds that I'm a duotheist and the words "under God" refer to a monotheistic deity (we start firehouse meetings with it), I understand completely the meaning of genuine equality and the lack thereof that still persists in this country! Margarita P, to force players to stay in the locker room during the anthem is on a par with requiring non-Christians who object to a sectarian prayer starting PUBLIC government meetings to stay out in the hall until the prayer is done and the meeting is underway. That means that the non-Christians are not only viewed as second-class citizens by the Christians who insist on their God being invoked, but would also disrupt the meeting when they come in after the prayer. Equality, people!

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Michele B
Michele B11 months ago

as it should totally be...ty

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Lisa M
Lisa M11 months ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M11 months ago

Noted.

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Philip W
Philip W11 months ago

Land of the Free?

Trump and these nationalists are hypocritically dividing Americans and oppressing a large portion of our Nation through racism, hatred, homophobia, xenophobia, etc., while at the same time demanding everyone respect or parrot a pledge, or stand for an anthem that is not true for them, and is the very opposite of what they experience. This is shamelessly trying to create an atmosphere of denial and subservience.

No gesture of allegiance is more important than our Constitutional right to practice that gesture or NOT to practice it. No one HAS to stand for the National Anthem and no one HAS to say the Pledge of Allegiance, especially, if they are being oppressed. This is not Nazi Germany where we would be forced to give the Nazi salute (it was mandatory for civilians, and later for the military after the attempted assassination of Hitler).

We have the right to dissent, no one has to agree with anything that Trump says or does. We can even impeach him or vote him out if we want to, this is America.

A person can be rich and still experience racism and oppression. Anyone can bring attention to an injustice whether they are rich or poor, however, those in the spotlight have more responsibility and the ability to do so, that is why they are disparaged to the degree that they are. And that is why they have become heroes.

No, the oppressed do not need to leave the country, just stop the racists and oppressors.

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Winn A
Winn Adams11 months ago

Peaceful protest

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Sherri S
Sherri S11 months ago

If you don't like this country, GET OUT! See if you can go to another country and get paid too much money just for playing a game. There is a time and place for everything.....if you want to protest, do it on your own time, not when you are on the job!

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