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Yes, the NFL technically still has a national anthem policy that prohibits players from kneeling throughout the to sing or playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to games. Yet the dominance is a pointless thing in the league"s game operations manual.

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The policy, amended in 2018 a couple years ~ Colin Kaepernick sparked league-wide protests against racial injustice and police brutality by sitting and then kneeling throughout the national anthem, has actually never been enforced.


That policy is under the microscope once again as the NFL begins its 2020 season. An ext police killings of unarmed Black civilization in recent months have prompted protests in the joined States and globally, and the demonstrations have spilled into the sporting activities world. NFL football player were intended to protest this racial injustices, as well, as soon as given earlier their gameday communication on the ar in prior of numerous viewers.

Which is good in the psychic of NFL commissioner roger Goodell, at least based on his latest comments.


MORE: The finish Colin Kaepernick protest timeline

"Yes," Goodell declared frankly once asked by former NFL player Emmanuel Acho whether that will support players who protest during the national anthem in 2020. Goodell recently appeared on Acho"s present called "Uncomfortable Conversations with a black color Man" in a two-part episode.

"We have actually never disciplined a single player for anything through the nationwide anthem and in violation (of the policy)," Goodell continued. "And i don"t intend to. And I will support them."

Of course, countless would controversy one significant player has to be unofficially disciplined because that protesting throughout the nationwide anthem. Kaepernick, who began the trend in the NFL earlier in 2016, hasn"t play in the league because that season. The quarterback and former 49ers teammate Eric Reid even filed collusion grievances against the league, both of i beg your pardon were worked out last year.

The NFL additionally has to be inconsistent with its message on protests during the nationwide anthem — therefore the policy that to be established but never enforced. Below is every you have to know around that policy and also why it was automatically disregarded.

NFL nationwide anthem policy

Kaepernick in 2016 began his protesting by sitting on the bench throughout the nationwide anthem before 49ers preseason games. A few days after ~ his protests to be noticed and also reported on through media, Kaepernick changed his an approach of demonstration based upon a conversation v Nate Boyer. The former Seahawks player and Green Beret convinced Kaepernick the kneeling before the American flag fairly than sitting on the bench would certainly be a much more respectful technique of protest due to the fact that "soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother"s grave."

Regardless, sitting or kneeling, Kaepernick technically was violating the NFL"s policy on conduct during the nationwide anthem prior to games.

The plan has because been amended (more on the below), yet here is the old NFL rule Kaepernick violated when he started protesting much more than 4 years ago:


"The national Anthem have to be played before every NFL game, and all players have to be on the sideline because that the nationwide Anthem.

"During the national Anthem, players on the field and also bench area must stand in ~ attention, confront the flag, host helmets in their left hand, and also refrain native talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in great condition. It have to be discussed to players and also coaches that we proceed to be judged by the public in this area that respect for the flag and also our country. Fail to be on the field by the begin of the nationwide Anthem may an outcome in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) because that violations that the above, including first offenses."


Even though Kaepernick was supposedly blackballed by the league complying with the 2016 season, it"s worth nothing the he was never ever fined or exposed by the NFL together a result of his protesting. However the league didn"t specifically support him.

"I don"t necessarily agree with what (Kaepernick) is doing," Goodell stated in his very first public comments on NFL player protests. "I support our players when they desire to see adjust in society, and we don"t live in a perfect society. ~ above the other hand, we believe an extremely strongly in patriotism in the NFL. I personally believe an extremely strongly in that."

MORE: Why the NFL is playing Black national anthem before games

Evidently, almost all of the NFL"s 32 team owners that vote top top policy alters agreed through Goodell"s early stage assessment. For this reason after two seasons of football player protesting throughout the nationwide anthem with varying levels of frequency, those NFL team owners in may of 2018 voted come amend the league"s national anthem policy.

Below is the league"s declare on the plan that technically continues to be in place today:

The policy embraced today was approved in concert v the NFL"s recurring commitment to neighborhood communities and our country — one that is extraordinary in its scope, resources, and also alignment with our players. We are specialized to continuing our participation with players to development the purposes of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.

The initiatives by many of our football player sparked awareness and activity around issues of society justice that have to be addressed. The platform that we have developed together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We room honored to job-related with our football player to drive progress.

It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception amongst many that hundreds of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and also was never the case.

This season, all league and also team personnel shall stand and also show respect because that the flag and the anthem. Personnel who pick not to was standing for the anthem may stay in the locker room till after the anthem has actually been performed.

We think today"s decision will keep our focus on the game and also the especially athletes that play that — and ~ above our fans who enjoy it. ...

The 32 member clubs the the national Football League have reaffirmed their solid commitment to job-related alongside our players to combine our areas and advancement social justice. The unique platform that us have developed is unprecedented in that is scope, and will carry out extraordinary sources in assistance of program to promote optimistic social adjust in our communities.

The membership additionally strongly to trust that:

All team and league personnel on the ar shall stand and show respect because that the flag and the anthem.The game Operations hand-operated will it is in revised to remove the need that every players it is in on the field for the anthem.Personnel who choose not to was standing for the anthem might stay in the locker room or in a similar location turn off the field until after ~ the anthem has actually been performed.A club will certainly be fined by the organization if that is personnel space on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.Each society may construct its own job-related rules, consistent with the over principles, regarding its personnel who execute not stand and show respect for the flag and also the anthem.The commissioner will certainly impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem.

The six alters to the policy listed above were authorized by every NFL team owners other than Jed York the the 49ers, who claimed he abstained indigenous voting early in part to "the absence of player authorized in the decision process."

And that lack of player authorized was without doubt an issue. Obviously, a policy that ongoing to try to eliminate peaceful protests top top the ar wasn"t going come fly v the players — especially since the NFL did no consult v the NFL players Association before its amendment of the rule.

"Management has chosen come quash the same liberty of speech the protects who who desires to salute the flag in an initiative to stop someone who does not wish to execute so," NFLPA executive manager DeMaurice Smith claimed in the wake up of the league"s policy tweak. "The sad irony the this dominance is the anyone who wants to express their patriotism is topic to the whim that a human being who calls self an "Owner." I recognize that not all of the NFL CEO"s are for this and also I recognize that true American patriots are not cheering today."

Added then-Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins: "What NFL owner did this day was thwart the players" constitutional civil liberties to to express themselves and also use our communication to draw attention to social injustices prefer racial inequality in our country. Everyone loses when voices get stifled."

A couple of month later, after ~ the players had filed a grievance versus the league, the NFL and also the NFLPA exit a share statement that the brand-new policy (or at the very least the enforcement of it) would stay on organize "for the following several weeks" together the two sides disputed the matter. 

About a month later, after players were viewed protesting during the nationwide anthem ahead of 2018 preseason games, the NFL official announced it would not technique those players regardless of the policy.

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"The NFL has actually been involved in constructive discussions through the NFL football player Association about the anthem and issues the equality and social justice that are of concern to numerous Americans,” the league said in a statement. “While those discussions continue, the NFL has agreed to delay implementing or enforcing any type of club work-related rules that could an outcome in players gift disciplined for your conduct during the performance of the anthem.

“Meanwhile, there has actually been no adjust in the NFL’s policy concerning the national anthem. The anthem will continue to it is in played before every game, and all player and non-player personnel on the field at that time are expected to stand throughout the presentation the the flag and also performance the the anthem. Personnel who perform not wish to do so can choose to continue to be in the locker room."