Owners of the National Football League put the contentious debate over kneeling during the National Anthem to rest this week, announcing Wednesday that the practice will no longer be tolerated.
After widespread public outcry over the popular trend started by second-string quarterback Colin Kaepernick that prompted many faithful viewers to boycott the NFL, the franchise finally took a firm stance on the issue.
Some may judge the decision as being too little too late, as the kneeling trend began during the 2016 preseason, when then-49ers player Kaepernick refused to stand as the anthem played, silently protesting the allegedly racist roots of the song. Many players from various teams followed Kaepernick’s lead, using their platform as celebrity athletes to call attention to criminal justice reform and what they viewed as the objectionable policies and views of President Donald Trump.
But as the Associated Press reported, Kaepernick didn’t play at all last season and has yet to be picked up by another team — a possible indication of his growing unpopularity with NFL fans and higher-ups.
In the wake of the monumental announcement, some are suggesting that President Trump himself played a large role in influencing NFL policy.
In an interview with Fox News, Trump said he believes the owners “did the right thing” by issuing the new policy, which demands that NFL players and personnel “stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem” or face a fine. Those who wish to stay in the locker rooms during the anthem may due so.
“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem and the NFL owners did the right thing with that if that’s what they’ve done,” Trump told “Fox & Friends’” Brian Kilmeade in an interview aired Thursday.
Trump also applauded patriotic Americans, many of them Trump supporters, who applied pressure to the NFL by boycotting the franchise while kneeling was still permitted. He even suggested that players who refuse to stand from the anthem don’t deserve to be in the country.
“I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. You shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe they shouldn’t be in the country,” Trump said.
In a statement Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league unanimously voted in favor of the new policy. It’s noteworthy, however, that San Francisco 49ers Jed York was the only owner who abstained from the vote.
The NFL saw a substantial drop in TV ratings during the kneeling controversy. CNN Money noted that “while the NFL never directly blamed the protest for lagging ratings, Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear that the league needed to ‘move past this controversy.'” Time will tell if the new rule will help the franchise recover.