NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer, it was announced Wednesday.
The policy subjects teams to a fine if a player or any other team personnel do not show respect for the anthem. That includes any attempt to sit or kneel, as dozens of players have done during the past two seasons to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Those teams also will have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction.
“We want people to be respectful of the national anthem,” commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We want people to stand — that’s all personnel — and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That’s something we think we owe. [But] we were also very sensitive to give players choices.”
All 32 owners approved the policy, which will be part of the NFL’s game operations manual and thus not subject to collective bargaining. The NFL Players Association said in a statement that it will review the policy and “challenge any aspect” that is inconsistent with the CBA.
Some important details remained unclear in the hours after the policy’s approval, including the specific fine that teams would be subject to and also how the league will define respect for the flag.
“To make a decision that strong, you would hope that the players have input on it,” Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. “But obviously not. So we have to deal with it as players, for good or a bad thing.