Reactions to the NFL’s New National Anthem Policy Are Getting Heated on Both Sides
The league’s new policy mandates that players stand or get fined.
Less than 24 hours after the NFL announced its new national anthem policy, the reactions have flooded in. The policy, which allows players to stay in the locker room or take the field during the anthem and requires those on the field to stand, has at least one high profile fan.
“I think that’s good,” President Trump said on Fox and Friends. “I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
The NFL’s owners were no doubt glad to hear the praise from Trump, whose criticism of players kneeling during the anthem was a major PR problem last year. The potential for the problem to linger into next season was one of the reasons the owners decided to act, SI.com’s Albert Breer reports.
“Oh yeah,” Packers president Mark Murphy said, laughing, when I asked him. “It was more how [Trump] might react, anticipating that. Also, how the fans will react, how the media will react. That’s what we tried to think through. … No matter what we did, [Trump] would probably try to get involved one way or the other—either criticizing us or taking credit for the change.”
While owners are no doubt happy to see Trump’s reaction to the new policy, they can’t like what they’re seeing from players, many of whom have pledged to continue using their platforms to raise awareness for issues important to them.
“For me, this has never been about taking a knee, raising a fist or anyone’s patriotism but doing what we can to affect real change for real people,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said in a statement.
His teammate Chris Long focused his criticism on the owners. “These owners don’t love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it,” he wrote.
A lot of other current and former players responded on Twitter with similar messages:
I love America. I appreciate the sacrifices men and women have made, and continue to make, for me and my family’s safety. Our military is what protects our democracy, our ideals, and our constitution.
Peaceful protests are extremely important for us to remain a free country.
— Sage Rosenfels (@SageRosenfels18) May 23, 2018
Doug Baldwin on @710ESPNSeattle on the NFL Anthem rules today:
"I'm not surprised – the NFL cares about one thing and that's the NFL – that's the bottom line…I'm not surprised, I'm disappointed."
Says he's been in contact with Roger Goodell, calls the rule tone deaf.
— Jessamyn McIntyre (@JessamynMcIntyr) May 23, 2018
— Lance Moore (@LanceMoore16) May 23, 2018
But there were plenty of players who seemed happy to have the issue resolved:
Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe: “That’s probably the best way to do it. The NBA has been doing it for 20 years, and they haven’t had an issue, right? … I’m going to stand for the national anthem. I think I’ve made that clear, so whatever anybody else wants to do, that’s their decision. They have a right to their opinion; they can do whatever they want.”
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott: “I’m glad they came to an agreement in some form or another. I’ll be out there standing.”
Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence: “I feel like I’m not an owner … yet, so I can’t make none of those rules. I’ve just got to abide by them. It’s still a business at the end of the day, so it is what it is.”
Cowboys receiver Tavon Austin: “That’s up to the individual. I’m the type of person that I respect the people that’s over there fighting for us. Whoever want to sit down, that’s on them. Whoever want to stand up, same to them too. I’m the type of person that I believe in what I believe in, and I stand on it.”
One surprise reaction came from Christopher Johnson, chairman of the New York Jets. After voting with every other owner to approve the new policy, Johnson came out Wednesday and made it easier for his players to run afoul of it.
“If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players,” he said. “I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest.”