PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — NFL owners have approved a new policy aimed at addressing the firestorm over national anthem protests, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” but requiring them to stand if they come to the field.
The decision was announced Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the league’s spring meeting in Atlanta.
“A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem,” the policy reads.
Eagles’ safety and social activist Malcolm Jenkins said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that the ruling obstructs “the players’ constitutional rights to express themselves…”
Chris Long, a member of the Eagles’ first-ever Super Bowl-winning team, also responded on Twitter on Wednesday, saying that the move by the owners is motivated by the league’s bottom line and not patriotism.
“This is fear of a diminished bottom line. It’s also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This ¡s not patriotism. Don’t get it confused. These owners don’t love. America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it. It also lets you, the fan, know where our league stands. I will continue to be committed to affecting change with my platform. I’m someone who’s always looked at the anthem as a declaration of ideals, including the right to peaceful protest. Our league continues to fall short on this issue.”
Goodell said in a statement that the decision “will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it-and on our fans who enjoy it.”
“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,” the commissioner said.
Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie released this statement following the new policy:
“I have always believed it is the responsibility of sports teams to be very proactive in our communities. 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.”
In a sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team — not the players. The NFL Players Association said it will challenge any part of the new policy that violates the collective bargaining agreement.
“The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the
NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our League. Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement,” the NFL Players Association said in a statement.
The owners spent several hours addressing the contentious issue — which has reached all the way to the White House.
Vice President Mike Pence called it a “win for America.”
“Today’s decision by the @NFL is a win for the fans, a win for @POTUS, and a win for America. Americans can once again come together around what unites us – our flag, our military, and our National Anthem. Thank you NFL,” Pence tweeted.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.
Other players took up the cause.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)