The NFL’s New National Anthem Rule

The NFL’s New National Anthem Rule

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From left, The San Francisco 49ers' Eli Harold (58), Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before their a game against the Dallas Cowboys on October 2, 2016, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell announced today that there are new rules in place regarding player conduct during the performance of the national anthem.

There is a plethora of context to these new rules, but basically it boils down to this: If you’re going to be on the field for the national anthem, you must stand in respect of the anthem and the flag. If you don’t want to stand for the anthem, then you can stay in the locker room until the anthem is finished. If a player does kneel on the field, the player, team and owner may be subject to fines handed down by the league.

This new ruling is nothing more than putting a bandaid on the hull of a sinking ship. Players and fans are still divided, and this won’t change that. I’ve seen a lot of people on social media praising the decision by the owners as a patriotic decision and nothing could be further from the truth.

All this was, was 32 rich guys trying to protect their bottom line and that’s it. This wasn’t a decision that honors the troops or the flag. No, this was a money grab.

Papa John’s Pizza was one of the NFL’s biggest sponsors in recent history and pulled out after announcing that they had seen a massive dip in their sales since the anthem protests came to light. In February, Papa John’s and the NFL announced they had mutually decided to end the pizza company’s title as official pizza of the NFL. Papa John’s is still partnered with 18 local NFL teams.

Before stepping down as the CEO of Papa John’s at the end of 2017, John Schnatter vocalized his disappointment with the league.

“We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this,” Schnatter said in a statement last November. “Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.”

Other major sponsors of the NFL, such as Budweiser, haven’t said that they plan to leave, but they are monitoring the situation closely. In layman’s terms, they’re saying fix this or we’re out. You can bet the NFL and their owners heard that message loud and clear.

In the height of the anthem protests, it was almost part of the pregame show for the cameras to pan the sidelines to see who was kneeling. Now, it’ll be the same only they’ll be looking for notable players who aren’t on the sidelines.

So with this new rule, what has changed? In short, absolutely nothing. This is still going to be a divisive and controversial subject.

The irony of this whole mess is that most people who claim that kneeling for the anthem is unpatriotic and disrespectful to the troops, the flag and our country are the same people clinging to the Second Amendment. They want to tell you about their right to bear arms. But when a black player wants to take a stand for what they believe is right, the anti-protesters want to completely skip over that tricky First Amendment that gives Americans the right to free speech. And these sentiments were bolstered by President Donald Trump last September when he said, “Get that son of a bitch off the field” in reference to NFL players who kneel during the anthem.

The fact is America is a free country, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Personally, I choose to stand for the national anthem and that’s my right. But I’m not going to pretend that I know what it’s like to be part of a disenfranchised group of people…unless you count redheads as a disenfranchised group. Censoring these players’ rights to protest racial inequality is unconstitutional.

So go ahead and believe that what the NFL and their owners did today is patriotic. But just know, if their bottom line was hurting because not enough players were protesting, they would have implemented a rule saying all players should take a knee for the national anthem or just taken the national anthem out all together.

Update: This story was updated Thursday, May 24 at 2:45 p.m. to correct a statement about Papa John’s.

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