In May of this year, the NFL owners unanimously approved a policy that requires players to stand on the field during the national anthem. However, it does give players the option to remain in the locker room.
The kneeling movement was started in 2016 by Colin Kaepernick as a way to protest against racial injustice and police brutality. The movement has since spread throughout the league and beyond, with football players across the country following Kaepernick’s lead. Last year, members of the ETHS football team took part in this wave of protests.
Many activists have since claimed that the NFL has infringed upon players’ First Amendment right to free speech by creating this rule. Let’s just get this out of the way right now: this rule is legal. The NFL is well within its rights to do this as they are a private entity and can discipline or terminate their players if they violate “company policies.” Though legal, the new NFL kneeling rule is both hypocritical and, for lack of a better word, pointless.
It’s pointless because the rule has spurred controversy and conversation, the same thing the kneeling was doing in the first place.
There are plenty of ways players can protest the anthem while standing. Such ideas include players standing with their arms crossed or raising a fist in the air.
It doesn’t have to stop there. If players really want to make a statement, they can all stand with their hands in the air to protest police brutality. After all, they aren’t kneeling, so technically it doesn’t break the rule.
In addition to continuing with these protests, the rule presents a perfect opportunity for players and the country alike to examine the hypocritical nature of the NFL, which is symbolic of the country as a whole.
“We want people to stand – that’s all personal – and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “That’s something we think we owe.”
Owe who exactly, the country? The armed forces? American soldiers fight overseas to ensure people at home have freedom. The freedom that gives us the right to say what we want. Again, this rule does not violate the First Amendment, but the NFL passed it in the spirit of “patriotism”, when in reality, it is anything but.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. Defend it how they want, the rule will likely lead to an increase in protests. And perhaps more importantly, it has increased awareness beyond just the NFL and its fans. High school and college players around the country may revitalize their protests, if for no other reason than to protect their own right to protest.