The NFL has given in to President Trump—and announced that players will be required to stand for the National Anthem next season.
“We want people to be respectful of the National Anthem,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “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.”
Goodell added that he would also give the players the option to stay behind in the locker room if they didn’t want to be present for the National Anthem.
According to Goodell, the decision was “unanimous” among owners, with one abstention.
It’s not hard to see why: since President Trump tweeted about the NFL kneeling and made it a national cultural issue, NFL ratings have been in free fall—with viewership dropping by double-digit percentages over the course of a year.
Goodell didn’t outline exactly how they would punish players who didn’t kneel, but it’s expected that the team will receive a fine if one of their players kneels.
However, the new rule was met with hostility from players—with NFL Players Association union executive director DeMaurice Smith expressing his displeasure over Twitter.
“History has taught us that both patriotism and protest are like water; if the force is strong enough it cannot be suppressed. Today, the CEO’s of the NFL created a rule that people who hate autocracies should reject,” Smith tweeted.
“Management has chosen to quash the same freedom of speech that protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to prevent someone who does not wish to do so. The sad irony of this rule is that anyone who wants to express their patriotism is subject to the whim of a person who calls himself an ‘Owner.’ I know that not all of the NFL CEO’s are for this and I know that true American patriots are not cheering today.”