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NFL’s new anthem policy does more harm than good

May 24, 2018 - 6:45 pm

By Alex Woodward

On Wednesday, the NFL announced a new policy for protocol during the pregame national anthem ceremonies.  Before we discuss what that new protocol is and the effect it will have; let’s put things in perspective.

In the past 2 seasons the NFL has taken a hit to the wallet because of Colin Kaepernick and other players taking his lead on kneeling during the national anthem to utilize their 1st amendment right to silently protest. Kaepernick and the other players attempted to bring attention to social injustice in America but since the protest occurs during the anthem; the motive and message has gotten lost in the shuffle and the NFL has had a dip in ratings. 

Things really got heated last season when President Trump tweeted out:

That tweet provoked numerous players across the NFL who hadn’t knelt before during the anthem to kneel in the following games. That includes the Ravens who had players kneel for the first time during the anthem in London against the Jaguars.

Things were heated for a while but as the season came to an end we saw less and less players taking a knee for one reason or the other. Some were probably scared of being shunned by prospective future employers like we’ve seen with Kaepernick and Eric Reid. Others probably felt that the message has been lost in the controversy of whether or not they are disrespecting the military. Either way, it looked to me like the trend would fizzle out over the next season or two since we saw nobody kneel in the Super Bowl which is the largest platform in the NFL season.

Now, we have a new protocol which states players must stand for the national anthem if they choose to be on the field for the song. They also have the choice to stay in the locker room during the song but if they decide to kneel on the field, they will be subject to fines from the NFL and their team.

To me, this “solution” does more harm than good. First, it reignites a controversy that seemed to be slowly fading away over the course of time. Second, it protects the owners in the league by saying, “hey, we gave them a choice…if they choose to still protest, it’s not our fault and we will fine them.” - That doesn’t do anything besides take the blame off of ownership.

If the players feel that strongly about their stance on the issue and don’t fear public backlash, they will continue to kneel. For the players who will make the choice to stay in the locker room during the anthem, they will almost certainly be booed when they make their way out to the field. It is a lose-lose situation for the players that aren’t standing for the anthem and it just puts that much more tension into the opening ceremonies.

The NFL is never proactive but reactive and this new protocol is the latest example. They are doing their best to try and appease angry fans and compromise with the players but the policy was unanimously voted on by the owners without asking the players. Obviously, money is the driving force for this decision.

To me, the easiest solution would have been to just revert back to the pre-2009 protocol which had the players still in the locker room during the national anthem. This way there would be no focus on who is and isn’t kneeling during the song or in this year’s case; who is and isn’t on the field for the anthem. It would have been the easiest way to take politics out of the game and put the focus back on injuries and other pregame storylines.

This decision might appease the fans that don’t want to see players kneeling during the anthem but it will most certainly create a larger division between the NFL owners and the NFLPA. They were already rumored to be heading for another lockout at the end of the current collective bargaining agreement in 2021. With this decision, there will be more tension between the two sides than ever before. 

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