Concluding months of drama and debate within the NFL community, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has issued an official statement that states that players who do not stand for the national anthem will be fined by the NFL. This is not to say that football players are not permitted to protest; in Goodell’s official statement, players who do not wish to stand for the national anthem are permitted to wait within their respective locker room until the anthem is fully finished.

This is the first time in NFL history that the NFL operation manual permits players to not be present for the United States’ national anthem. The removal of the requirement to stay on-field goes hand in hand with the addition of the rule prohibiting kneeling during the anthem, unless the player who kneels wishes to risk a fine. Teams will have their own specific rules on how a player is punished if they do not follow these new regulations.

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers was the first to kneel during the national anthem in protest against the oppression of minorities, though most visibly by police. This received great backlash from many who perceived the protest as unpatriotic and called for the silent protests to be forcibly ceased. After nearly two years of negotiation, NFL team owners have voted unanimously to pass this new policy; however, this unanimous vote does not include teams who abstained.

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 31: Several members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the anthem prior to the football game against Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 31, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images)

Among those who abstained was Jed York, the CEO of the 49ers. While unable to comment on other teams who abstained from this vote, Mr. York was able to say that he wanted the 49ers to focus on “the progress aspect, not focus on the protests.” In addition, the 49ers will also close concession sales during the national anthem, insisting that it is disrespectful to profit during the anthem.

However, not everyone is happy with this. The NFL Players Association was kept in the dark while team owners were having talks, and have stated that the new policy will be reviewed for inconsistencies with the union’s “collective bargaining agreement.” The NFL Players Association said that the new policy contradicts information they had been given about the League’s ideals. What parts of this new policy will be challenged, if any, is yet to be seen.

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