The National Football League’s owners will discuss at meetings next week whether to unilaterally change the league policy to require players to stand during the national anthem. The decision to consider the change came after weeks of persistent criticism from President Donald Trump about players protesting during the anthem, including his call for fans to boycott games if the demonstrations continue. In a conference call, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said league officials, owners, fans, and likely certain players are frustrated that the issue has dominated the game in recent weeks. He said owners will consider player input on the issue, but suggested that a rule change would not require player approval. “I don’t believe that the anthem per se is something that needs to be collectively bargained,” Lockhart said. The National Football League Players Association was not immediately available for comment. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has said that league officials assured him that players who did not stand for the national anthem would not face penalties. If the policy is changed, however, players that protest could face discipline from the league. The NFL manual on game operations says players “should” stand during the national anthem. It does not say they “must” stand, even though that word is used in numerous instances in the manual regarding player behavior during games. Lockart’s comments followed more tweets from the president assailing the league for not disciplining players who protest during the national anthem. “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country?” the president asked on Twitter. Trump didn’t say exactly what he meant regarding the taxes and a White House spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment. Lockhart said the NFL does not receive any special tax breaks. It gave up its tax exempt status in 2015. He acknowledged that many NFL stadiums have been built using tax exempt bonds, which he argued are used to help spur economic development through public-private partnerships. After an initial show of unity, there has been mounting disagreement within the league about how to handle the issue. Monday, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he told his players last year that they would not play if they disrespected the flag. The owners are scheduled to meet next week in New York. “I fully expect this to be front and center on the agenda,” Lockhart said.
Indeed.. Guess we’ll see if the NFL pulls its collective head out of its ass, and yes, requires its players to stand during the playing of our National Anthem. It’s stunning, and offensive, that this issue has dragged on this long.