Despite better than two dozen meetings scattered across various levels of NFL leadership since the end of last season, the NFL is not expected to formally adopt a new national anthem policy this season according to Adam Schefter at ESPN. The NFL has come up with several different ideas regarding how they would handle silent protests during the playing of the national anthem prior to games, however, none seem to have found the level of approval that they were seeking from players, owners, and their attorneys. At least for right now, the new policy is that the NFL will have no policy regarding the national anthem.
An unnamed league official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Schefter that right now there are too many people involved in the game right now that have stances that are so strong it has become difficult to reach a compromise. While he stated that didn’t mean the league was no longer searching for a policy that would satisfy all parties involved, it did mean that for the time being, they were not going to implement a new policy that would potentially be even more caustic to the league than maintaining the status quo.
Kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest actually began in 2012 when former quarterback Tim Tebow took a knee to protest abortion. As many fans are aware, he was praised for that. In 2016, players again began kneeling, taking a cue from former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who currently has a lawsuit against the NFL for colluding to blackball him from the league, and is the face of Nike’s 30th Anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. Kaepernick was protesting to raise awareness of racial bias and injustices suffered by men of color in regard to police brutality as reported by The Independent.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick taking a knee initially drew some criticism but didn’t gain widespread attention until Donald Trump weighed in on the issue, calling for anyone that took a knee to be fined and/or fired. He began equating to the protest to people showing no respect for the military or America at his MAGA rallies, as reported last year by Time, when Trump said he is the reason Kaepernick cannot get a job in the NFL.
“There was an article today…that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. You believe that? I just saw that. I said, ‘If I remember that one, I’m gonna report it to the people of Kentucky because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag.'”
Despite Trump calling for punishments for anyone taking a knee for well over a year now, the NFL and the players’ union are again at a crossroads where they cannot agree on what, if any action, is appropriate or even warranted when players silently protest during the national anthem. In the previous new policy which was released in May and is now scrapped, according to ESPN, any rules changes are on hold until they can be discussed again. It is believed that if an agreement is not reached in the next several days, the issue will be put on hold until the next off-season.