NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer, it was announced Wednesday.

President Donald Trump praised NFL team owners for doing the “right thing” in requiring NFL players to stand during the National Anthem this season, and suggested those who don’t stand maybe “shouldn’t be in the country.”

With this change, the NFL’s game operations manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the anthem. Previously, there had been no rule that prevented players from protesting.
“We want people to be respectful to the National Anthem,” Goodell said. “We want people to stand, that’s all personnel, and make sure that they treat this moment in a respectful fashion that’s something I 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.”


Nearly two years ago, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked a wave of protests in the US against racial injustice when he started taking a knee during the pre-game US national anthem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour,” the biracial athlete from Wisconsin, said at the time.

The move by owners stems from the silent protests that began in 2016, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem to draw attention to racial injustice.

The Washington Post’s Fatal Force database counted more than 980 people killed by police in 2017. The Guardian documented more than 1,090 police killings the previous year. Nearly a quarter of those killed in 2016 were African American, although the group accounts for roughly 12 percent of the total US population.

“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” Kaepernick said.

‘Dangerous and un-American’

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) started a petition, calling on the NFL to respect its players’ voices and rescind the new policy.

“Telling peaceful protesters to leave and do it behind closed doors is dangerous and un-American,” the non-profit organisation said on Twitter.

“Respect and love for America doesn’t require blindness to America’s failure to honour its promise of racial justice and equality – failures that are made even more evident each time the police murder a person of colour and get away with it,” ACLU said in a statement.

The league’s decision has sparked a social media storm, with many on Twitter criticising the new rules.