The NFL will allow players to remain in the locker room during the national anthem. However, if they come out and protest the flag or anthem, their teams will get fined.
That is the new policy announced in a statement by Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday. It matches reports tweeted by ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter:
ESPN’s Seth Wickersham backed Schefter’s reporting:
Now, along with the commissioner’s official statement, other details of the policy have emerged:
On Tuesday, it was reported that the league would assess 15-yard penalties to teams whose players protested on the sidelines. That idea, though, was resoundingly mocked on Twitter.
As suggested by Breitbart Sports, the NFL may have released the story about penalizing players in order to make their actual policy seem more reasonable. That would appear to be the case with what’s happened here. If Schefter’s report is accurate, the players would still be able to protest, in a sense, by remaining in the locker room. Conversely, should players choose to publicly disrespect the flag, their teams would get penalized. Which would give owners an incentive to curtail the protests.
While fining the teams could work as a deterrent to the protests, in theory, unless the fines are significant the NFL’s billionaire owners might find it all too easy to simply pay the fines. However, if the fines are significant, the owners may exert real pressure on the players to stop the protests.
Also noteworthy, is the provision that the discipline of the protesting players will be left to the teams. That will give more liberal teams the latitude to treat protesting players more lightly. While giving more conservative owners the ability to drop the harsher disciplines.
In any event, the fines are not likely to match or exceed the millions and millions of dollars that the protests have cost the NFL already, as fans leave the sport in droves.
According to a survey from UBS Securities, 50% of those who said they watched less football in 2017, listed the anthem protests as the main reason for their decision to snub the game. Ominously, the number of people naming the anthem protests as the main cause for watching less, rose 18% from the previous year.
The NFL is now entering its third season of dealing with the anthem protest issue. The protest movement began in the preseason of 2016, when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat, then knelt, in protest of the Star-Spangled Banner. Dozens of players followed Kaepernick’s lead by either kneeling, sitting, or raising a fist during the anthem.
Kaepernick walked away from his contract with San Francisco at the end of the 2016 season. He has failed to sign with another team since leaving the 49ers. Kaepernick has filed a collusion grievance against the NFL, claiming that NFL owners conspired to keep him out of the league.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn