All professional football players must stand for the national anthem ahead of National Football League games to “show respect” for the American flag, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Wednesday.
Players and other NFL personnel who would prefer to remain seated or kneel during the anthem as part of ongoing protests against racial inequality and police brutality spearheaded by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 “may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field,” until the anthem’s conclusion, the NFL said.
“The 23 members of the [NFL] have affirmed their strong commitment to work alongside our players to strengthen our communities and advance social justice,” Goodell said in a statement. “The unique platform that we have created is unprecedented in its scope, and will provide extraordinary resources in support of programs to promote positive social change in our communities.”
It’s several months since President Donald Trump put the NFL kneeling controversy in the national spotlight by pivoting from threatening North Korea to threatening pro athletes, so here’s some of our essential items on the matter in case you need a refresher.
- What U.S. service members think of the whole thing: Opinions on the matter are not uniform. Here are two pro and con samples courtesy of Business Insider:
Pro, from former Army Green Beret Michael Sands, son of a World War II veteran and father of an Army officer who served in Afghanistan: “I can tell you, speaking for three generations of my family, it is PRECISELY for men like Kaepernick, and his right to peacefully protest injustice, that we were willing to serve … Want to respect the American flag? Then respect the ideals for which it stands. Bullying language and calling peaceful protesters ‘sons of bitches’ who should be fired aren’t among them.”
Con, from Marine Corps infantry veteran Nick Stefanovic “For me it is offensive at the least and painful at the most to see someone disrespect the flag or anthem, as they have become linked to the sacrifices that I have seen made in their name. I am tired of this ‘bringing awareness’ crap. I think it does nothing but bring attention to the person trying to do it. It is a way is saying, ‘Hey look at me, I’m doing something good,’ without actually having to do something.”
- ‘I would shut my mouth and just listen’: When the initial controversy emerged back in 20167, Nate Boyer, the former U.S. Army Green Beret turned Seattle Seahawks snapper attempted to use his unique background as both a combat veteran and pro baller to thread the needle between two passionate views on the issue. His advice? “I would just listen. I would shut my mouth and just listen.”“What you are doing takes a lot of courage, and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was like to walk around in your shoes,” Boyer wrote on Facebook in September 2016. “I’ve never had to deal with prejudice because of the color of my skin, and for me to say I can relate to what you’ve gone through is as ignorant as someone who’s never been in a combat zone telling me they understand what it’s like to go to war.”
- These debates are good for America: “For once in a loud, tumultuous, and at times scary American era, I see something that makes me hopeful we can still be whole in some meaningful way, even when we’re disagreeing vehemently about how we make our meanings,” wrote T&P’s Adam Weinstein last year. “Maybe I’m wrong; empathy is hard, among the hardest frontier journeys humans can still attempt. But I never knew an America that shied away from hard work.”
- There are more important things to care about: Just take it from Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who delivered a perfect Mattisim when asked about the whole kerfuffle: “I’m the Secretary of Defense. We defend the country.”
Do you have thoughts on NFL’s new policy change? Let us know in the comments.