ATLANTA (AP) — Stand or stay out of sight.
Looking to quell a national debate that was sparked by Colin Kaepernick, stoked by President Trump and some say chipped away at the very popularity of America’s game, NFL owners approved a new policy Wednesday that allows players to protest during the national anthem by staying in the locker room but forbids them from sitting or taking a knee if they’re on the field.
Commissioner Roger Goodell called it a compromise aimed at putting the focus back on football after a tumultuous year in which television ratings dipped nearly 10 percent. He said it was unanimously approved by NFL owners, but that was immediately called into question when the head of the San Francisco 49ers — Kaepernick’s former team, no less — said he abstained from the vote. The owner of the New York Jets also took a more conciliatory approach, promising not to punish any player who continues to protest against social injustice in full view of fans.
The players’ union said it wasn’t consulted in the talks and would file a grievance against any change in the collective bargaining agreement. The owners seemed to address that concern by saying only teams would be fined for violations, not individual players. But the league also cleared the way for teams to set their own workplace policies, raising the specter of an even more convoluted approach to an issue that has dominated conversation away from the field.
The Minnesota Vikings haven’t had any players kneel during the national anthem before games, and that’s fine by coach Mike Zimmer.
Zimmer has frequently avoided commentary on such non-football subjects, but on Wednesday after practice, he made his feelings known about the controversy. He said he was proud of the team last season for standing during the anthem.
Zimmer said: “I think it’s important we represent our country the right way. A lot of people have died for that flag. That flag represents our country and what we stand for.”