A decision from NFL owners requiring players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” if they are on the field when the anthem is played triggered intense reaction from supporters and opponents Wednesday, as one owner revealed that he abstained from the vote. Commissioner Roger Goodell said the change was approved unanimously at the league’s spring meeting in Atlanta. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Fox News in an email that San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York was the only abstention. “I want to work with my team to make sure everything we do is about promoting the right types of social justice reform and getting to a better America,” said York, who added that he planned to meet with his players to discuss the new policy. New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson told Newsday that he voted for the new policy because “I felt I had to support it from a membership standpoint.” “[Y]ou have to understand that the plan we ended up with … was vastly less onerous than the one that was presented to me late last week,” said Johnson, who added that the team would not fine or suspend any players who choose to stay in the locker room while the anthem is played. “I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players,” he said. “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. “If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.” York said other initiatives were in the works, including a suspension of all concessions sales during the national anthem. “If we want to be sacrosanct, if we want to honor the flag, we’ve got to make sure we go through a litany of things,” he said. “We’re not going to force people to stand in their seats, but we’re certainly going to make sure we’re not profiting during that two or three minutes of time during the game.” York’s 49ers kicked off the protest debate during the 2016 season when quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench when the anthem was played, then got down on one knee as a protest against police brutality. Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to land a job with another team. Kaepernick and Eric Reid, a former 49ers teammate and fellow protester, have filed collusion grievances against the NFL. The controversy even reached the White House, with President Trump telling supporters in September 2017: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘get that son of a b—- off the field right now, out, he’s fired.'” Vice President Mike Pence, who left a game between the 49ers and Indianapolis Colts this past October after some 49ers knelt during the anthem, tweeted a link to a news story about the policy change with the phrase, “#Winning.” Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, also tweeted about the story, saying he was “STILL NOT SICK OF WINNING!!!!”
This new policy certainly isn’t perfect. But, it’s a step in the right direction. So, we applaud the owners (the majority of them) for supporting this step. For more on this story, click on the text above.