Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback most famous for kneeling during national anthems, lost a battle today.
On Wednesday morning, NFL owners decided to fine all players on the field who show visible disrespect to the flag or during the national anthem.
After days of speculation about how the league would respond to the hotly-contested issue of kneeling during the anthem, owners in the NFL formulated this policy:
- All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
- The Game Operations Manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the anthem.
- Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the anthem has been performed.
- A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
- Each club may develop its own work rules, consistent with the above principles, regarding its personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
- The Commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.
The owners see it as a compromise on the enduring issue, as players are now allowed to stay in the locker room until the anthem finishes. A group of NFL team owners, including Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft, discussed in April how this controversy distances fans of the NFL, and even villanizes it. It’s clear this decision is an attempt to strike a balance.
“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it and on our fans who enjoy it.”
Statements from the Denver Broncos CEO Joe Ellis and the Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan mirror Goodell’s.
Nevertheless, the announcement enraged many players, who said the decision was made without their knowledge. The NFL Players Association issued a public statement earlier today stating that NFL owners never approached them for approval of these new rules.
“Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and change any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement,” the NFLPA said.
49ers owner Jed York abstained from voting because players weren’t included in the decision.
As the announcement was released, Kaepernick retweeted the news this morning with the caption “#nflcollusion.”
Kaepernick, an African-American man and prominent social activist, felt kneeling was necessary to bring awareness to what he argued are racially-motivated killings of Black people by police officers in recent years. Opposers view it as an act of deep disrespect to the United States, specifically to military personnel and veterans who fought for the freedom of this country.
Earlier this year in Amsterdam, where Kaepernick received the 2018 International Amnesty Conscience award, he referenced kneeling in his speech.
“How can you stand for the national anthem of a nation that preaches and propagates,’freedom and justice for all,’ that is so unjust to so many of the people living there?” Kaepernick said. “How can you not be in rage when you know that you are always at risk of death in the streets or enslavement in the prison system? How can you willingly be blind to the truth of systemic racialized injustice?”
When Kaepernick first took a knee on Sept. 1, 2016, millions of Americans were angered–fans, team owners, and even the President. Fans that disagree with Kaepernick threw bottles at him and whole stadiums booed him before.
In an interview with Sean Hannity, President Donald Trump openly targeted Kaepernick for starting the movement.
“I watched Colin Kaepernick, and I thought it was terrible, and then it got bigger and bigger and started mushrooming, and frankly the NFL should have suspended him for one game, and he would have never done it again,” Trump said. “I will tell you, you cannot disrespect our country, our flag, our anthem — you cannot do that.”
Kaepernick is not the only 49ers player to kneel at games as a form of protest. Former 49ers safety Eric Reid, the team’s first-round pick in 2013, was one of many NFL players to follow Kaepernick’s lead.
“It’s ironic that the stand Colin and I took was not to stand at all, but it was to take a knee,” Reid said on Kaepernick7.com. “He didn’t kneel because he is anti-America, but because he believes America should be held to the standard that it has written on paper; that we are all created equal.”
However, the 49ers demonstrations have not come without a cost. Kaepernick and Reid are both now free-agents, and neither have been able to successfully sign with another team afterwards, supposedly because of these political demonstrations.
The two players claim that their association with kneeling caused them to be blackballed by the league. Over the last few months they filed a grievance towards the league with their lawyer Mike Geragos regarding their unemployment.
The NFL’s announcement Wednesday plunged millions of Americans straight back into the debate. People are curious as to whether the new policy could be breached in other forms, like raising a fist during the anthem, which Philadelphia Eagles player Malcolm Jenkins and Los Angeles Rams linebacker Robert Quinn already did last fall.
President Trump has yet to speak on the league’s announcement, but when he does, we can guarantee it won’t be constricted to the locker room.