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Yes, the NFL technically still has actually a national anthem plan that prohibits football player from kneeling throughout the to sing or play of "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to games. However the preeminence is a pointless thing in the league"s video game operations manual.

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The policy, amended in 2018 a pair years ~ Colin Kaepernick sparked league-wide protests against racial injustice and also police brutality by sitting and also then kneeling throughout the nationwide anthem, has never been enforced.


That plan is under the microscope once again together the NFL starts its 2020 season. An ext police killings of unarmed Black world in current months have prompted protests in the joined States and globally, and also the demonstrations have spilled into the sporting activities world. NFL players were supposed to protest this racial injustices, together well, as soon as given back their gameday platform on the field in prior of millions of viewers.

Which is good in the mental of NFL commissioner i get it Goodell, at least based upon his recent comments.


MORE: The complete Colin Kaepernick protest timeline

"Yes," Goodell proclaimed frankly when asked by former NFL player Emmanuel Acho whether he will assistance players who protest during the nationwide anthem in 2020. Goodell recently appeared on Acho"s display called "Uncomfortable Conversations through a black color Man" in a two-part episode.

"We have actually never disciplined a solitary player because that anything v the nationwide anthem and also in violation (of the policy)," Goodell continued. "And ns don"t intended to. And also I will support them."

Of course, many would argue one noteworthy player has been unofficially disciplined because that protesting during the nationwide anthem. Kaepernick, who started the trend in the NFL back in 2016, hasn"t play in the league since that season. The quarterback and former 49ers teammate Eric Reid also filed collusion grievances versus the league, both of which were worked out last year.

The NFL likewise has to be inconsistent v its messaging on protests during the national anthem — hence the plan that was established but never enforced. Below is every you should know about that policy and also why the was immediately disregarded.

NFL nationwide anthem policy

Kaepernick in 2016 started his protesting by sit on the bench throughout the national anthem before 49ers preseason games. A few days after his protests were noticed and reported on by media, Kaepernick transformed his technique of demonstration based upon a conversation through Nate Boyer. The former Seahawks player and Green Beret convinced Kaepernick that kneeling before the American flag fairly than sit on the bench would certainly be a much more respectful method of protest since "soldiers take it a knee in prior of a collapse brother"s grave."

Regardless, sit or kneeling, Kaepernick technically was violating the NFL"s policy on conduct throughout the national anthem before games.

The plan has because been amended (more on the below), but here is the old NFL rule Kaepernick violated as soon as he began protesting an ext than 4 years ago:


"The nationwide Anthem have to be played prior to every NFL game, and all players have to be top top the sideline because that the nationwide Anthem.

"During the national Anthem, players on the field and bench area have to stand in ~ attention, challenge the flag, organize helmets in your left hand, and refrain from talking. The residence team should ensure the the American flag is in good condition. It have to be pointed out to players and coaches that we proceed to it is in judged by the general public in this area of respect because that the flag and our country. Failure to it is in on the field by the begin of the national Anthem may an outcome in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations that the above, including first offenses."


Even despite Kaepernick was supposedly blackballed through the league adhering to the 2016 season, it"s worth nothing that he was never fined or suspended by the NFL as a an outcome of his protesting. However the league didn"t precisely support him.

"I don"t have to agree through what (Kaepernick) is doing," Goodell claimed in his first public comments on NFL player protests. "I assistance our players once they want to see change in society, and we don"t live in a perfect society. ~ above the various other hand, we believe really strongly in patriotism in the NFL. Ns personally believe very strongly in that."

MORE: Why the NFL is playing Black nationwide anthem before games

Evidently, almost all of the NFL"s 32 team owners that vote on policy alters agreed with Goodell"s early assessment. For this reason after two seasons of football player protesting throughout the national anthem with varying levels of frequency, those NFL team owners in may of 2018 voted come amend the league"s national anthem policy.

Below is the league"s explain on the plan that technically continues to be in place today:

The policy embraced today was authorized in concert with the NFL"s ongoing commitment to local communities and also our country — one the is especially in its scope, resources, and also alignment v our players. We are devoted to proceeding our teamwork with football player to advancement the objectives of justice and also fairness in every corners of ours society.

The efforts by numerous of our players sparked awareness and activity around problems of social justice that need to be addressed. The platform that we have created together is absolutely unique in skilled sports and quite likely in American business. We room honored to job-related with our football player to drive progress.

It to be unfortunate the on-field protests developed a false perception among many that countless NFL players to be unpatriotic. This is not and was never ever the case.

This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. Personnel who select not to stand for the anthem may remain in the locker room till after the anthem has actually been performed.

We think today"s decision will save our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our pan who reap it. ...

The 32 member clubs that the nationwide Football League have actually reaffirmed their solid commitment to work-related alongside our football player to strengthen our neighborhoods and development social justice. The distinctive platform that us have developed is unmatched in that scope, and will carry out extraordinary sources in assistance of programs to promote positive social change in our communities.

The membership additionally strongly believes that:

All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect because that the flag and also the anthem.The game Operations manual will it is in revised to eliminate the requirement that every players be on the field for the anthem.Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem might stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after ~ the anthem has been performed.A club will be fined through the organization if the personnel are on the field and do not stand and also show respect for the flag and also the anthem.Each club may develop its own work-related rules, continuous with the over principles, regarding its personnel who carry out not stand and show respect because that the flag and the anthem.The commissioner will impose proper discipline on league personnel who perform not stand and also show respect because that the flag and also the anthem.

The six alters to the policy noted above were authorized by all NFL team owners other than Jed York the the 49ers, who stated he abstained indigenous voting early out in part to "the lack of player authorized in the decision process."

And that absence of player joining was without doubt an issue. Obviously, a plan that ongoing to try to eliminate peaceful protests on the ar wasn"t going to fly with the football player — especially since the NFL did no consult v the NFL players Association before its modification of the rule.

"Management has actually chosen to quash the same freedom of speech the protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to avoid someone who does not wish to execute so," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith claimed in the wake of the league"s policy tweak. "The sad irony that this dominion is the anyone who desires to express your patriotism is subject to the whim of a person who calls himself an "Owner." I recognize that not every one of the NFL CEO"s room for this and also I know that true American patriots room not cheering today."

Added then-Eagles security Malcolm Jenkins: "What NFL owner did this particular day was thwart the players" constitutional rights to refer themselves and also use our platform to attract attention to society injustices choose racial inequality in our country. Everyone loses as soon as voices acquire stifled."

A couple of month later, after ~ the players had actually filed a grievance versus the league, the NFL and also the NFLPA released a joint statement the the new policy (or at the very least the enforcement that it) would remain on hold "for the next several weeks" together the two sides questioned the matter. 

About a month later, after players were watched protesting during the national anthem front of 2018 preseason games, the NFL officially announced it would certainly not self-control those players in spite of the policy.

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"The NFL has actually been involved in constructive discussions with the NFL players Association concerning the anthem and issues the equality and also social justice that space of issue to countless Americans,” the league said in a statement. “While those discussions continue, the NFL has agreed to delay implementing or enforcing any club work-related rules the could result in players being disciplined for their conduct during the power of the anthem.

“Meanwhile, there has been no readjust in the NFL’s policy regarding the national anthem. The anthem will proceed to be played prior to every game, and also all player and non-player personnel top top the field at that time are expected to stand throughout the presentation the the flag and performance of the anthem. Personnel who execute not great to execute so can choose to continue to be in the locker room."