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Volume 25 No. 45
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NFLers Reportedly Already Looking At Different Ways To Protest

Some NFL players are "already talking about other ways in which they can protest" following the NFL's decision to force players to stand if they are on the field for the playing of the national anthem, according to NBC's Craig Melvin ("Today," NBC, 5/24). NFL Media's Jim Trotter reported some players are "*considering* staying in locker room or making a different on-field gesture" this season because they "feel this new policy is a direct challenge to them." Prior to the NFL's decision, they "hadn’t thought about demonstrating in ‘18" (TWITTER.com, 5/23). The MMQB's Robert Klemko noted some players "who weren't planning demonstrations for next season are now back in the conversation" with the new policy in place. They are "discussing ways to skirt [the] new rules 'just to spite the NFL'" (TWITTER.com, 5/23). NBC Sports Bay Area's Ray Ratto: "I would not be surprised if a lot of players didn't figure out different ways to protest" ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 5/23).

Rooney said that any sort of gesture including locking arms"will be viewed as a protest
Photo: getty images

ANY GESTURE A PROTEST? Steelers President Art Rooney II said that "any sort of gesture," including raising a fist or locking arms "will be viewed as a protest" under the NFL's new national anthem policy. In Boston, Ben Volin reports the league yesterday approved a plan in which all players on the field must stand for the national anthem and "show respect" for the flag. Players also have the option of staying in the locker room during the song. Rooney said, "We didn't define exactly what they have to be doing, but I think everybody understands what it means to be respectful during the anthem." Volin reports it is unclear what "type of punishment that teams can impose on players." The likeliest penalty "is a fine, with limits established" by the CBA. Rooney: "We listened to a lot of different viewpoints, and I think this policy attempts to come out in a place where we respected everybody's point of view in this as best we could" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/24). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in announcing the policy said, "Our objective as a league ... is that we want people to be respectful to the national anthem. We want people to stand, that's all personnel, and make sure that they treat this a moment in a respectful fashion. That's something that we think we owe. We've been very sensitive in making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on" (ESPN, 5/23). 

MISSING THE POINT: NFL.com's Judy Battista wrote amid the desire to "create a policy that would make clear that the NFL and players respect the flag and keep the league ahead of any future controversies -- especially with midterm elections looming -- the owners left so much gray area that everyone might be susceptible anyway" (NFL.com, 5/23). The Undefeated's Jason Reid said the policy "really doesn't make a lot of sense." Reid: "They've left so much ambiguous about this policy. So you have to respect the flag if you're on the sideline. Who's going to be the arbiter of that? We're talking about kneeling, but we're talking about more than kneeling. Remember, some players raised fists. Some players did other things, so there's just a lot left open to interpretation here. I think they've left the door ajar for further problems in the future." He added, "A lot of the fans who were upset about the protests from the standpoint they think it's unpatriotic. ... What do you think they're going to feel when all of a sudden there are a bunch of pockets on the sideline where players should be standing in a line and they're not there because they're in the locker room? That's going to be an issue and the league has left these doors open" ("OTL," ESPN, 5/23).

PLAYERS EASY TO IDENTIFY: In Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw writes while some players may "stay in the locker room for the anthem," they "will be identified if not vilified by fans who will never see the protests in the terms that these players do" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/24). In Pittsburgh, Joe Starkey writes those who "stay in the locker room are likely to be ostracized as the 'disrespectful' ones and possibly blackballed right out of the league" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 5/24). ESPN Radio 98.7 N.Y.'s Michael Kay: "Everyone that stands in the locker room now will have a scarlet letter" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 5/24). In Boston, Steve Buckley sarcastically writes "nobody will notice which players are absent during the national anthem." Buckley: "The players who are absent won't be chased down for comment after the game is over. Right?" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/24).