THE NFL’S ANTHEM POLICY

Colin Kaepernick started things in 2016 when he refused to stand for the National Anthem before a 49ers game. He did so as a form of protest because of racial injustice in this country. Other players joined him in kneeling for the anthem over the remainder of the season. Last year the protests continued and the NFL decided it needed to do something about the situation.

The NFL announced its new anthem policy for this coming season a few days ago. In what the NFL described as a compromise, all players and team officials must stand for the National Anthem. Anyone wishing to stay in the locker room while the anthem is being played may do so. If anyone on the field associated with a team chooses not to stand, the team (not the individual) will be fined.

There are generally two schools of thought as to why the NFL made this policy change. One suggests that the NFL was concerned with the bottom line. They felt they were losing paying customers because of the protests and didn’t want to risk decreased revenues. The other school of thought was that the NFL was caving in to criticism from the White House. President Trump let it be known that he was unhappy with the player protests.

Before I give my opinion on why the NFL made its policy change, let me tell you my reaction to the player protests. I was not as shocked as some people who were outraged by the players actions. I was taught to respect the flag and stand for the playing of the National Anthem. I have seen a number of people who apparently didn’t share my upbringing. People have failed to remove their hats and continued conversations during the anthem. Some were totally indifferent to the playing of the anthem. They went about their business as if the anthem was something to be ignored.

Perhaps the most distressing example came when I was at Arlington National Cemetery for the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A solemn and patriotic occasion, one couple’s kids ran around at the scene being none too quiet. I thought it was very disrespectful and wondered why the parents let the kids do it.

The players made it clear that they were not disrespecting the flag or the members of the military with their actions. Many people did not care. All they knew was that these players were unpatriotic and were in the wrong.

A big part of me wanted the players to stand for the anthem. A bigger part of me understood what they were doing. Is their racial injustice in this country? Of course there is. Do the players have a Constitutional right to protest? Of course they do.

As for the NFL’s decision, I thing the former school of thought was the main reason behind the policy change. The NFL is a multi-million dollar operation and that was what led to the decision. I actually hope the decision was made for financial reasons rather than the latter school of thought. I would hope that placating President Trump was not even considered.

President Trump has suggested that the kneeling players should be fired. He further suggested that if the players aren’t happy in the U.S. that maybe they should leave. That doesn’t cut it with me. The President swore an oath to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States of American. The right to protest is protected by the Constitution. Perhaps he should be reminded of that fact.

Personally I think the players have shown great courage in staging their protests. It comes with a cost, as Kaepernick has found out, but protests only work when you touch a nerve. This has definitely touched a nerve in our society. Talking about the reason for the protest has begun and hopefully will lead to improved conditions. We can no longer look the other way when things are not right.

The view from my seat suggests that the NFL made a mistake with its new policy. The protests were starting to wane last season as the positive effects from them were realized. There may not have been any this season, but now I think there will be. Staying in the locker room is not much of an option. The league’s new policy may encourage some players repeat their protests.

Is a better day coming? I hope so, but it may not happen as quickly as we like.

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