New NFL Policy: Fire Fuel or Fire Proof?
The New Policy
After a year-long controversy, the National Football League (NFL) announced that it will fine teams whose players choose to kneel during the National Anthem. The decision comes months after players across the league chose to kneel or sit during patriotic pre-game ceremonies. Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL, called for the vote on the issue at a spring meeting in Atlanta this year. The NFL decided that it would now penalize teams if their players do not stand during the national anthem, but would place no penalty if players remain in the locker room during pre-game ceremonies.
Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49’s, started the trend, coined the “Kaepernick Effect” by the Atlantic. During a game in 2016, he chose to ignore the status quo. Rather than stand during the National Anthem, he sat down. This protest came a month after the death of Alton Sterling, a black man shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In order to avoid offending veterans, Kaepernick modified his protest to kneeling rather than sitting.
Connection to 'Black Lives Matter'
When asked about his protests, Kaepernick related his actions back to the Black Lives Matter movement. Black Lives Matter is an activist movement which advocates for the African-American community, and campaigns against violence and systemic racism. The movement was founded in 2013, and has gained popularity after multiple incidents between policemen and African-American citizens. The movement has supported players’ activism in the past, and even encourages players to take it a step further. Hank Newsome, leader of New York's Brand of Black Lives Matter, would even support players if they skipped practice altogether. He applauds the athletes who have protested, and believes that using their public platform to make political statements is necessary.
Since the initial protests began in 2016, many players in the NFL have joined the movement. In 2017, during the United States National Anthem, several Baltimore Ravens players kneeled before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London’s Wembley Stadium, which caused an uproar back in the States. Also in September of last year, leading up to kickoff in their game against the Washington Redskins, the Oakland Raiders entire offensive line kneeled during the anthem.
Gaining Presidential Attention
It would be an understatement to say that protests have sparked controversy. Some have shown avid support for athletes to use their platform for activism, while others have denounced these actions. President Donald Trump has famously criticized NFL players in the past for kneeling, making his opinions known publicly, often through Twitter.
The President disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles from a celebratory service at the White House following their win in Super Bowl 52. In a statement issued by the White House, President Trump noted: "They [Eagles players] disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.”
Commissioner Goodell’s announcement comes during a period of political unrest. Across the country, many are still divided on issues of race and equality. There are still a few months left in the offseason, but it is hard to say if players have changed their political opinions. With the possibility of consequence, September will tell if players will continue their protests or abide by the new rules.
Do you think the National Football League should be allowed to fine players and/or teams for expressing their political opinions through protest?