NFL mulls changing anthem policy for next year
The NFL is considering an idea for next year to keep players inside their locker rooms during the playing of the National Anthem.
"I think that if players are still kneeling at the end of the year, then it could very well happen," said one person familiar with the owners' deliberations on anthem-related issues.
Years ago, the players would come out on the field to warm up and then return to the locker room during the National Anthem. The league is thinking of going back to that policy.
That person said it was "too early to tell" for certain if the change to the anthem policy will be made by owners and the league. The person was "not sure" if a formal vote of the owners would be required to enact such a change but said, "I think most owners would support it, particularly if players continue to kneel this season."
Those sentiments were echoed by several others with knowledge of the owners' thinking on the matter. They said they did not know at this point exactly how many owners would favor such an approach, and they cautioned that there have been no detailed discussions yet about leaving teams and players in the locker room for the anthem because owners did not consider it appropriate to make an in-season change to the policy.
But they agreed that if the protests last all season and remain intensely controversial among fans, the issue will be raised during the offseason and a policy change to having players remain in the locker room until the anthem's conclusion would have the support of a significant number of owners. They said the matter could be addressed at the annual league meeting in March.
Donald Trump thinks staying in the locker room would be almost as bad as kneeling.
The NFL is now thinking about a new idea - keeping teams in the Locker Room during the National Anthem next season. That's almost as bad as kneeling! When will the highly paid Commissioner finally get tough and smart? This issue is killing your league!.....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2017
The current policy regarding players being on the field for the anthem has been in place only since 2009. But changing it now would appear to fans as though the owners are giving in to the players point of view – that the anthem isn't worth standing for.
There will be many players and owners who see the idea of remaining in the locker room during the anthem as an acceptable compromise. This ignores the reality of the massive damage done to the NFL brand by players protesting. It will take more than sweeping the problem under the rug to convince former fans to return.