The NFL announced a new policy regarding the National Anthem on Wednesday, one that many of the league's players have since spoken out against.
The policy was made amongst the owners to address the ongoing debate about certain player kneeling for the National Anthem. The players, following the lead of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, argued that kneeling was meant to be a silent protest against police brutality against people of color. Many fans however, including President Donald Trump, saw the silent protest as disrespectful and a protest against the National Anthem itself.
NFL officials ruled that if players are out on the field during the song, they are required to stand at attention. If the players do not comply, the team will be forced to pay a fine from the league.
Numerous players gave their reactions to the new rule on social media and in interviews. One former player, Donte Stallworth, took things a step further and went on CNN's Reliable Sources this week to chastise the league's ruling, calling it "compulsory patriotism."
These players that are peacefully protesting, Brian, what they're essentially doing is practicing dissent," Stallworth said. And we know that dissent is not supposed to make you feel comfortable. Protests are not supposed to make you feel comfortable.
Roger Goddell, who announced the new policy via press conference, stated that players are allowed to stay in the locker room during the anthem if they so choose.
"It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic," Goodell said. "This is not and was never the case."
The criticism against the kneeling rule continued throughout the week.
"What NFL owners did today was thwart the players' constitutional rights to express themselves and use our platform to draw attention to social injustices like racial inequality in our country. Everyone loses when voices get stifled," Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins wrote on Twitter.
"We're supposed to have a conversation about things, talk about things, work things through," Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall told ESPN. "Everybody is not gonna agree on things, everybody is not gonna have the same opinion on things. So just because somebody disagrees or has an issue with something that's going on in this country, it doesn't mean that they should pack up and leave. That's absurd, in my opinion."
"This is fear of a diminished bottom line. It's also a fear of a president turning his base against a corporation," Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long tweeted. "This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it. It also lets you, the fan, know where our league stands."