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NFL Players Must Stand for the National Anthem (If They Choose to Leave the Tunnel)

Robert Dimuro

Posted on May 27, 2018 20:31

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Is the new rule an effective solution for players, teams, and fans?

The NFL’s new anthem policy, supported unanimously by the owners and President Trump, was enacted to replace the weak and obscure previous rule, which only stated that players SHOULD stand for the anthem. The new rule dictates that players must stand for the anthem if they are present on the field. Players can avert standing if they choose to stay in the locker room instead. Although the ruling appears to be a major victory for patriotic fans across the nation, there are problems related to its content and its implementation that, ultimately, will satisfy neither the players nor fans.

One problem is how the rule will be enforced. As the rule stands now, if a player decides to kneel on the field, the team, not the player, would be penalized. In this set-up, each team can take a different position on the ruling, causing segregation and decentralization of the NFL’s authority on the issue. Already, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson said he would not hold his players accountable for any fines incurred because of their decision to kneel. This arrangement is not good for the league and could potentially serve to mock the entire ruling.    

Another problem is the optic that is created by forcing players who wish to protest the national anthem to stay off the field in obscurity. This will inevitably be spun as the NFL’s attempt to oppress freedom of speech by keeping protesters invisible to the public eye. It also acknowledges the premise that standing for the anthem is a statement about being completely satisfied with the state of the nation and those leading it. In other words, it validates the idea that there is genuine meaning in refusing to do something as incidental as standing for a song.

In this light, although seemingly harsher, the NFL should have gone further to stipulate that the players must stand AND must be present for the anthem’s performance. In doing so, it would at least force players to protest American injustice in a more productive and meaningful fashion that doesn’t offend the fan base.

In my opinion, however, the larger problem isn’t the wording and implementation of the rule itself but, rather, the nation’s response to the entire kneeling controversy. As with most issues in our modern discourse, the response to the kneeling has been very black and white. One side ardently supports patriotism, whereas the other side supports the shaming of America because of its perceived injustices. These two camps seem to be at war over this issue, and just like every game on Sunday, there has to be a winner and a loser.

Because of this schism, the NFL can’t draft a rule that will satisfy everyone. The kneeling controversy can only end with a larger sociopolitical effort that changes the hearts and minds of individuals. When players and fans can enter the stadium without displays of protest and patriotism capturing everyone’s attention, this issue can finally be put to rest.

Robert Dimuro

Posted on May 27, 2018 20:31

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Source: CBS Sports
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