NFL owners decide on policy for players kneeling during National Anthem


ORCHARD PARK, NY – SEPTEMBER 24: Buffalo Bills players kneel during the American National anthem before an NFL game against the Denver Broncos on September 24, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

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ATLANTA – NFL teams will set their own rules regarding players who want to kneel during the National Anthem, NFL team owners decided Wednesday in Atlanta.

Read NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s statement

There will also be an option for players to remain in the locker room while the anthem is played.

Instead of a league-wide rule, it will be up to each team to decide whether there would be discipline for a player protesting during the National Anthem.

Should a player protest on the sideline, the NFL can fine a team, but not the player.

Previously, there had been no rule that prevented players from protesting.


As NFL owners work to conclude their spring meeting Wednesday in Atlanta, a big question remains: How will teams respond if players protest during the National Anthem?

There is no rule that prevents players from protesting. However, citing unnamed sources, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, as well as writers at ESPN, say NFL owners have considered new approaches, including leaving it up to home teams to decide whether players take the field before the National Anthem is played. If they do appear and players kneel, teams could be assessed 15-yard penalties, the sources said.

Asked Tuesday about the 15-yard penalty option, an NFL spokesperson told CNN, “As always, conversations at league meetings are candid, thoughtful and thorough. The clubs explore every option and idea on any policy, and discuss the merits and drawbacks of each approach. We will continue the conversation tomorrow.”

At the conclusion of the meetings on Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to hold a news conference, as is his custom. Typically, Goodell addresses policy and rule changes.

Previously, Goodell has said the league believes players should stand for the National Anthem. However, he has pointed out that players say “they’re not doing this in any way to be disrespectful to the flag.”

Scores of players have joined in silent protests, initiated by quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the 2016 NFL season, to draw attention to what many describe as the systemic oppression of people of color, including by police.

In recent months, the league has worked toward a reported $90 million social justice partnership with the Players Coalition, using the NFL’s platform to highlight players’ efforts to curb injustice and to use political connections to push for legislative change.

The conversations come as two free-agent players, Kaepernick and Eric Reid, have filed separate grievances against the league, citing collusion in denying them jobs. Kaepernick and Reid both kneeled during the National Anthem when they were 49ers teammates, and Reid continued his protest last season. Kaepernick has been a free agent since March 2017.

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