Fri, May 25, 2018 - Page 16 News List

NFL orders players to stand for anthem

AFP, LOS ANGELES

NFL team owners on Wednesday agreed to a new policy that players must stand during the US national anthem or incur fines for their clubs, unless they stay in the locker room.

The issue of how to handle player protests of kneeling during the pregame playing of The Star-Spangled Banner has loomed over the NFL club owners meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, with the sport anxious to avoid a repeat of the controversy that divided the league last season.

The US’ most popular sport found itself at the center of a political firestorm last year after US President Donald Trump described players who kneeled during the anthem to draw attention to racial injustice as “sons of bitches” who were insulting the flag and the nation.

The remarks prompted a wave of kneeling protests across the league in September last year, angering some fans and placing several conservative team owners who support Trump in an awkward position as TV ratings for the sport dropped.

US Vice President Mike Pence, who walked out on an NFL game in Indianapolis, Indiana, after some players kneeled for the anthem, tweeted a headline of the NFL announcement on Wednesday with the hashtag #Winning and a US flag.

Trump later retweeted the message.

With the NFL’s leadership reluctant to issue a blanket decree ordering players to stand for the anthem, the deal approved on Wednesday represents a compromise.

Under current NFL regulations, all players are required to be on the field during the anthem. The new policy removes that requirement, allowing players who do not wish to stand to remain in the locker room.

Players who do take the field for the anthem would be required to stand or teams would be fined.

“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.”

The NFL would levy fines against teams if players take the field and do not stand for the anthem, with teams deciding what punishment, if any, to pass along to kneeling players, he said.

“If anyone is on the field and is disrespectful to the anthem or the flag, there will be a fine from the league against the team,” Goodell told reporters. “The team will have its own rules and make their own decisions.”

Goodell took issue with criticism levied at protesting players being called “unpatriotic.”

“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic,” Goodell said. “This is not and was never the case.”

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said that the policy was the result of extensive consultation.

“We’re not forcing anybody to stand who doesn’t feel like it,” Rooney said. “But those that are on the field are going to be asked to stand.”

“We’ve listened to a lot of different viewpoints, including our fans, over the past year and this policy is an attempt to get to a place where we have respected everybody’s point of view as best as we could,” he added.

The NFL Players Association, which was not included in league discussions on how to handle the anthem issue, threatened to challenge the policy if it was deemed a breach of its agreement with the league.

“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy,’” the union said in a statement. “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.”

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top