COLUMN: National Anthem policy meets respectful compromise


In sports, politics, business and just about everything else that makes the world go ‘round, there is almost always a winner and a loser.

The key word – almost. 

Throughout the 2016 and 2017 National Football League seasons, there were no real winners or losers amidst the national anthem protests. Instead, it was an indecently messy situation.

The NFL was stuck in a rut, as the protesting of players in public and in uniform was clearly negative for fans, sponsors and the media. At the same time, the NFL did not want to force players away from their constitutional freedom of expressing their beliefs. 

Without claiming a winner or a loser, the NFL owners compromised.

On May 24, NFL owners unanimously approved a new policy which requires players to stand for the national anthem if they are on the field before the game. However, the critical loophole is that players have the option to stay in the locker room if they prefer. 

'Disrespecting' the national anthem on the field – including sitting or kneeling, according to the NFL – will result in a fine from the NFL. Throughout the past two seasons, an abundance  of players have adopted kneeling as a protest against racial inequality and police brutality. 

"We want people to be respectful of the national anthem," said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. "We want people to stand – that's all personnel – and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That's something we think we owe. [But] we were also very sensitive to give players choices."

Kneeling during the national anthem was never executed to object the United States military or the flag in general. However, everyone has, and is entitled to, their own personal opinions, and many mistook the directive of the protest.

Plain and simple, many fans got the wrong message. 

Instead of recognizing  the protest for what it is, a protest against racial injustice, fans picked up on a false protest against being American. 

The reason for the new policy is not because Goodell is “sensitive to give players choices.” Rather, it is because the NFL is a business. 

As a business over anything else, the NFL has to succeed with ratings, please sponsors and fill seats on Sundays at stadiums across the United States in order to continue making money. With consumers in a frenzy regarding the protests, which caused for a financial decline, the NFL had to act fast.

So, a compromise was established. 

During the upcoming 2018 season, at least one player will most likely choose to kneel during the national anthem, both in public and in uniform, regardless of the consequences. It will make news for a week and fizzle away. There will also be players who never remove themselves from the locker room for the national anthem. 

In the case of those who do not leave the locker room, the average fan will presumably never notice. However, heads would turn if a multitude of players walked out of the locker room hand-in-hand, arm-around-arm and side-by-side.  

The NFL owners have successfully found a way to allow players to peacefully protest while helping fans realize the respect for the national anthem that has always been present, just unclear at times.

Winning and losing is a fundamental part of the NFL and sports in general, but sometimes, a compromise is necessary when business comes to play.