UPDATE: Wednesday, May 23, at 1:32 PM EST:
The NFL announced on Wednesday that players on the field during the National Anthem who do not stand will be subjected to a fine.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called standing for the anthem “a very important moment for a lot of us as a league, as clubs and [for] our country” — apparently more important than taking a stand against racism.
The league called it “unfortunate” that the protests led fans to believe players “were unpatriotic” — again, apparently more unfortunate than the deaths of innocent Black men at the hands of police.
The NFL Players Association, for its part, disagreed with the decision.
“The NFL chose not to consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy,'” it said in a statement. “NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.”While Black people remain drastically underrepresented in leadership roles in the National Football League, the nearly all white higher ups are considering taking steps to further silence their majority-Black players.
Original story below.
The NFL is considering imposing a penalty against players who kneel during the national anthem, a form of protest started by Colin Kaepernick to bring attention to police brutality against Black men in America.
Demographics tell an important story here. According to a report from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), the NFL’s players are nearly 70 percent Black. In sharp contrast, quarterbacks are only 19 percent Black. Head coaches are only 21.9 percent Black. There is not a single Black owner of a team.
According to Sports Illustrated, if the new rule takes effect, “It would be up to the home team on whether both teams come out of the locker room for the anthem, and, should teams come out, 15-yard penalties could be assessed for kneeling.”
The league has taken measures to appear like it cares about social justice issues. Last year, it pledged to donate about $90 million to social justice groups — a move seen as the NFL’s way of trying to use money to simply make the protesting go away.
“We have a unique opportunity here for NFL players and for NFL owners to work together,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the time. “This is a result of unprecedented dialogue and cooperation between NFL players, ownership and our office over the last year.”
The NFL had a “unique opportunity” to stand up to injustice when Kaepernick started his protesting. Instead, he was blackballed by the league, according to a lawsuit the former QB filed. Eric Reid, Kaepernick’s former teammate, is suing the league as well. He was the first person to join Kaepernick’s silent protest, and he too has since been blackballed by the league.
Instead, the league demonstrated at a meeting in October where its priorities are.
“I feel like [Kaepernick] was hung out to dry,” Reid, who had on a Kaepernick t-shirt over his business attire, said at the meeting. “Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us.”
“Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.”
Now Reid finds himself in the same boat.
During this meeting, one owner even suggested having a Black spokesperson to further perpetuate the appearance of diversity — while having no discussion, then or now, on how to diversify the league’s leadership.
Meanwhile, some owners still seem determined to simply make the problem disappear.
“Whatever we do, let’s put the focus on what the NFL’s about and that’s playing football,” said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has been a vocal opponent of the protests.
It’s easy for the owners to try and find a way to simply bury the controversy when it’s not their reality. While the protests have drawn ire, they have also been a source of inspiration. Recently, a nine-year-old was kicked out of his fourth-grade classroom for kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance — a decision his mother said was inspired by Kaepernick.