It was announced on May 23 that the NFL approved a new policy in regards to players kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. According to the NFL’s website, the policy “requires players and league personnel on the sideline to stand, but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they don’t want to stand.”
This policy was unanimously voted into place by team owners. However, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA ) claims that they were never consulted regarding the policy change. In case you are unfamiliar with the NFLPA, it is a union representing players’ interests regarding wages as well as protecting the rights of players. The NFLPA Tweeted about the policy promising to “review” and “challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”
What started as a peaceful protest against police brutality and racial inequality by Colin Kaepernick in 2016, quickly became a full-fledged movement across the NFL. Reactions were various and widespread. The discussion became especially inflammatory when President Trump and his Twitter account became involved in the dialogue. Trump expressed anger towards the NFL at the time for not forcing players to stand for the anthem. Pressure from Trump, as well as like-minded viewers of the NFL, seem to be motivating factors behind the policy change.
Reactions to the policy have varied across the political spectrum. Critics of the change cite it as unpatriotic or un-American. It should be noted that teams can be fined by the league if players continue to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem. This penalty has caused many to call for boycotts of the league.
While the NFL is a privately owned organization, I can’t help but be point out this form of forced “patriotism” by one of the nation’s most influential brands. The NFL has bent in favor of outrage rather than standing with the rights of its players. If voices and views are being silenced, it’s hard to believe there’s anything very American about what they are doing. This move to appease white America by silencing peaceful protests is not patriotic. Allowing people who may have a different viewpoint than you to protest peacefully is patriotism. I love America. One of the things I love most about America is that I don’t actually have to love America or everything about it.
As the upcoming football season approaches, this issue will only continue to evolve. All eyes will be on the NFL to see how the policy change affects viewership and how strictly it is enforced.