The National Football League and the NFL Players Association are teaming up to create a new “stand for the anthem” protest initiative that will require players to stand during the playing of the national anthem.
The effort was announced on Tuesday in the wake of protests in which players across the league knelt during the anthem last season and during a game in which a man who was kneeling during the national anthems was arrested and charged with assault.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said he plans to announce a new policy by the end of the year to ensure that players are given a “voice.”
The new proposal is the latest step in a long-running effort by players to address the growing divide between the players and fans over the protests.
“The NFL is committed to creating a respectful environment for all our players, fans, coaches and executives,” Goodell said in a statement Tuesday.
“This new policy is just the beginning.
We will continue to make progress on this issue and will provide more details as we develop it.”
The proposal is not yet law and has not been formally endorsed by any league team.
It would not apply to players who were injured or arrested while protesting.
It is a new initiative and will not affect the current collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the players union.
The players union is considering a proposal for a “stand your ground” policy that would allow for certain types of self-defense and “stand down” actions, a stance that is backed by most sports leagues, including the NFL.
“In light of the current national and global crisis, it is important to recognize the importance of the NFL’s position as the voice of the players, which is protected by the collective bargaining agreements,” said Mike Conley, the union’s executive director.
“We will continue the dialogue with the league to ensure it takes meaningful steps to address racial and cultural issues that are critical to the players.”
The proposed rule would require players who protest to remain on the field for the entire playing of a specific anthem.
It also would require them to stand in a specific spot during the first three minutes of a game and then be given the opportunity to leave if they choose.
The proposal also would bar the use of racial slurs or other epithets during the song and would require teams to pay for legal representation of players who refuse to stand.
NFL owners, however, are unlikely to sign off on the proposal, given the controversy that has engulfed the protests that started last season.
“There’s a long way to go, and I think the league and the team owners have made a lot of progress,” said NFL Media executive editor Stephen A. Smith.
“But, it’s a real, substantive and important step in the right direction.”
The NFL has faced criticism from fans, politicians and social justice groups who say the protests are divisive.
They have demanded that players be allowed to kneel during the singing of the anthem or to kneecap during a certain play or a certain time of day.
Goodell has denied that players should kneel and that players who take part in such protests are hurting the sport.
The league is set to announce new rules and policies on race, gender, and sexual orientation at its annual meetings next month.