The decision would allow players to remain in the locker room during the anthem, but require that they stand and “show respect” if on the field.
The move was met with the same mixed reaction seen over the past couple years over this issue. One political reporter in Washington tweeted the NFL’s move made Congress look somewhat functional and competent by comparison.
Other commentators compared the move to a form of slavery.
Still, this is the type of firm hand President Donald Trump and many football fans have been hoping the team owners would take with players who kneel to protest police brutality against black people.
There’s some irony to the timing of this decision. Milwaukee police yesterday released video of officers tasing Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown, because he wouldn’t answer their questions about a parking violation.
Indeed, this is the very point of the NFL protests — to draw attention to the disparate and often violent treatment of African Americans by the police.
And the NFL policy change also raises questions about the relationship between employers and employees — what can your employer compel from you, as far as political expression is concerned? And if this were a question of, say, forcing NFL players to observe a Muslim prayer before each game, would as many Americans — and our president — be quite as supportive?
“The NFL owners were talking about some more drastic measures than this,” says Niyo. “They thought this was a compromise.”
“I don’t think they solved the problem if that was what the intention was,” he continues. “But I don’t think that’s what the intention was. I think they were trying to appease President Trump.”
Henderson also speaks with former NFL player Domonique Foxworth, who served as president of the NFL Players Association from 2012 to 2014. Foxworth is now a senior writer with ESPN’s The Undefeated, which explores the intersections of race, sports, and culture.
Foxworth says this was “a poor decision… both morally and professionally.”
“This decision…really doesn’t please anybody,” says Foxworth. ”The (NFL appears) to be taking a side while not actually taking a side. And I think that actually hurts them.”
He says, if players want to push back against the decision, they should consider sitting out, or some other form of protest.
“Collective action is how you get anything done…if you can galvanize a group of people to work toward anything, you can accomplish anything you want.” But he says it’s unlikely there would be universal buy-in from NFL players for something like that.
“I’d be stunned if all 1,800 players are willing to do that going forward,” says Foxworth.
“If they’re not all willing to do it, it doesn’t mean that other players shouldn’t…but I would hesitate against pushing guys to do that because that’s a major sacrifice.”
Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.