NEW YORK—National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday announced a new policy that will fine teams an undetermined amount if players on the field fail to stand during the national anthem played before the start of the game.
Some NFL players chose to kneel during the anthem last year to protest “police brutality” and “racial injustice,” stirring a controversy as President Donald Trump added his voice to a chorus of criticism accusing the players of being unpatriotic.
The protests during the last season resulted in smaller TV viewership and dwindling attendance at many NFL stadiums as Americans protested with their wallet and disinterest in the game.
The league’s new policy no longer requires players to be on the field during the anthem, allowing any players who wish to protest to remain in the locker room.
But the players’ union, the NFL Players Association, said the league chose not to consult the union and that it may challenge the new policy.
“Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement,” the NFLPA said in a statement.
The protests, in a league where African-Americans make up the majority of players, continued for much of the past season, with some players kneeling when the anthem was played and others standing arm-in-arm in solidarity.
Trump directed his ire at the players for their protesting a national symbol, he also asked if the league should get tax breaks while its athletes protest during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
“Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!” Trump tweeted in October 2017.
The NFL last year rejected Trump’s calls to punish players who protest, but said the league’s players “should” stand during the anthem.