Associated Press

NFL Announces Anthem Policy

Players To Stand Or Be Fined

May 24, 2018 - 8:44 am

ATLANTA (AP) — With its popularity threatened and critics stretching all the way to the White House, the NFL just wanted to get past the debate over taking a knee during the national anthem.

Put the focus back on football.

Instead, the league seemed to muddle the divisive issue even more with a new policy that stirred up defenders of free speech, prompted a couple of owners to quickly backtrack and raised all sorts of potential questions heading into next season.

After a tumultuous season, NFL owners wrapped up their spring meeting in Atlanta by announcing Wednesday that players would be required to stand for the national anthem if they're on the field before a game, but gave them the option of staying in the locker room if they wanted to carry on the Colin Kaepernick-inspired campaign against police brutality and social injustice.

Commissioner Roger Goodell called it a compromise that respected the wishes of everyone, from those who consider "The Star-Spangled Banner" a sacred part of the American experience to those who believe the right to protest during the anthem is also in the best tradition of a free but imperfect society.

Yet, it was clear to everyone that the owners wanted to quell a firestorm by moving any further protests away from the public eye — especially if it lured back disgruntled fans while appeasing President Donald Trump and his vocal base of support.

Kneel if you like.

But stay out of sight.

"This is a fear of the diminished bottom line," said defensive end Chris Long of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles . "It's also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it."

Trump stoked the issue during a political campaign, saying the NFL should fire any players who kneel during the anthem . During an interview that aired Thursday morning on "Fox & Friends," he praised the league for doing "the right thing."

"You have to stand proudly for the national anthem," Trump said. Or "you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe they shouldn't be in the country."

Vice President Mike Pence called it "a win for the fans, a win for (the president), and a win for America."

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