San Francisco 49ers
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

In its latest address of on-field protests, the league has limited fine-free demonstrations to the locker room. President Trump is pleased with the ruling, but opposition has been vocal.

In an effort to curtail player demonstrations during the traditional playing of the national anthem, the National Football League instituted new pregame policies on Wednesday.

Under this new set of rules, all on-field personnel must stand for the national anthem, though players will have the option of remaining in the locker room. Those who disrespect the anthem, such as kneeling or sitting through its playing, will be subjected to a fine from the league, who also gave power to teams to dispense individual reprimands for such offenses.

“We want people to be respectful of the national anthem,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, according to Kevin Seifert and Dan Graziano of “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. We were also very sensitive to give players choices.”

The NFL claims the decision was made via a unanimous vote amongst league owners, but San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York stated that he abstained from voting.

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith expressed his concerns in several tweets on Wednesday.

Further controversy about the vote emerged on Thursday when league spokesman Brian McCarthy admitted to ESPN that a formal roll call vote was not taken, done only by a show of hands.

This decision marks the latest turn in the league’s national anthem controversy. The movement began in August 2016, when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the anthem prior to a preseason game, a protest against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States. At the suggestion of former NFL long snapper and United States Army Green Beret Nate Boyer, Kaepernick took a knee instead, and dozens of players throughout the league followed his example.

Released by the 49ers after the 2016 season, Kaepernick, who has faced both criticism and praise for his demonstration, has not been picked up by any NFL team since, and he has since filed a collusion lawsuit against the league and its owners. Safety Eric Reid, who publicly supported Kaepernick and knelt alongside him, has likewise been unsigned since his contract expired after last season and has likewise filed a collusion charge.

The league’s decision received praise from President Donald Trump, who remarked that the league “did the right thing” in an interview with news program Fox and Friends that aired Thursday morning.

“I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms but still I think it’s good, you have to stand proudly for the national anthem,” Trump said. “Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem and the NFL owners did the right thing if that’s what they’ve done.”

Trump has been vocal against the protests, referring to the participants, notably declaring “get that son of a b**** off the field”, referring to a hypothetical protesting player, in a September political rally.

Detractors of the new rule include New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson, who promised to cover the fine of any Jets who choose to demonstrate.

“If somebody takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players,” Johnson said, according to Bob Glauber of Newsday “I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines. I don’t want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won’t. There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”

Giants defensive tackle Damon Harrison, who knelt in the game that immediately followed Trump’s September comments, spoke out against the rule on Twitter, dispelling the notion that the protest was meant to disrespect the flag and military, as well as the idea that NFL ratings dropped due to the protests, common claims of the anti-protest crowd.

If anything, this decision now has people talking long before football season even begins. Now we wait to see how it all plays out.

Follow Geoff Magliocchetti on TWITTER