Standing for the national anthem may be instituted as a mandatory policy in the NFL, CNBC reported Tuesday. Per a league spokesman, team owners will discuss at a meeting next week a potential rule change mandating all players stand during the playing of the national anthem.
Late Monday night, Deadspin reported that sometime in the last three years, the NFL already quietly changed its rule concerning player conduct during the anthem. In 2014, the league's national anthem policy — tucked away in its obscure Policy Manual for Member Clubs — stipulated that "during the playing of the national anthem, players on the field should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking." The 2017 version of the manual includes the same conduct directives, but the consequences for failure to do so have changed, Deadspin notes:
The 2014 policy reads that failure to be on the field by the start of the national anthem may "result in disciplinary action from the League office." The version currently being promulgated by the NFL revises this to read "result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violation of the above, including first offenses."
That’s a pretty big change for two reasons: They've added a lot of punishment, and they've removed the language that punishment would come from the league office. We don't know when the change was made; its language did not appear on the web at all until two weeks ago, and questions sent to an NFL spokesperson have yet to be answered. [Deadspin]
It is unclear what punishments the league owners would consider for players who defy a new mandatory standing rule. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police brutality against people of color, though this season the protest has become embroiled in broader political turmoil.