Civil Rights Groups: Making Players Stand for Anthem Puts NFL ‘On Wrong Side of History’

Anthem Protests
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

According to USA Today, a group of civil rights organizations wrote a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, calling on the league to rescind their recently implemented policy which makes players stand for the anthem.

The group includes the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NAACP, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the American Civil Liberties Union (the ACLU), the National Immigration Law Center, the National Action Network, the Advancement Project and the Arab American Institute.

USA Today was provided a copy of the letter.

“This policy represses peaceful, non-disruptive protest of police violence against unarmed African Americans and other people of color,” the group wrote to Goodell. “It is disappointing that a league built on grit and competition lacks the constitution to stomach a call for basic equality and fairness.”

It’s possible the NFL has the stomach for peaceful protests, but doesn’t for losing profits. The anthem protests the last two seasons have contributed to lower TV ratings and ticket sales.

The group supports the protesting NFL players bringing attention to what they feel is an important issue.

“As national organizations we are uniting to make clear that we stand with those players who chose to use their platform to call attention to ongoing police shootings of unarmed people in our country,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “This is an issue that is not going away and will remain the subject of intense national interest.”

The group believes NFL owners making players stand for the anthem, shows a league that lacks concern for racial injustice.

“Compelling players to stand for the national anthem erodes the values that the flag represents and tells the world that the NFL does not care about racial justice,” they wrote in the letter.

Members of the coalition want to meet with Goodell about their new policy which states that players on the field must stand for the anthem. Players not inclined to stand, have the option of staying in the locker room during the anthem and the team not getting fined.

The coalition also isn’t thrilled with what they feel is a lack of diversity in the NFL. They cited the lack of any black owners, CEO’s or team presidents in a league with 75 percent black players.

“The recent decision to mandate the silence of players wishing to demonstrate for civil rights is even more appalling against the backdrop of the glaring racial disparities in the NFL,” they wrote in the letter.

Clarke told USA Today she doesn’t think history will judge the NFL favorably for their decision to make players stand for the anthem.

“We think that the league’s policy puts them on the wrong side of history,” Clarke told USA Today.

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