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NFL: New National Anthem Policy Deepens Divide

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently released a policy rule that will make any football player’s decision to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem punishable by a fine.  If a player does not wish to stand during the playing of the national anthem, he can remain in the locker room until it is over. Each team may adopt its own workplace rules consistent with the spirit of the NFL’s policy.

Presumably, teams want to avoid being fined by the NFL, so they will be less inclined to sign players who have expressed their desire to protest during the anthem.  Therefore, the policy indirectly punishes players by potentially denying them the opportunity to play at all, and it allows teams to punish them directly if they do protest.

New York Jets chairman, Christopher Johnson, said that he will pay his players’ fines because he never wants his players to feel restrictions on their right to free speech and expression.  It is important to note that the National Football Player’s Association was not allowed to negotiate with the NFL. The Association has pledged to review the policy and challenge any provisions it believes violate the collective bargaining agreement.