NFL will now fine players for kneeling during anthem

This is the definition of closing the barn door after the horses have fled.


NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer, it was announced Wednesday.

The policy subjects teams to a fine if a player or any other team personnel do not show respect for the anthem.  That includes any attempt to sit or kneel, as dozens of players have done during the past two seasons to protest racial inequality and police brutality.  Those teams also will have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction.

Josh Peter of USA Today gave credit where credit is due:

President Trump could have done it with more tact – as usual, right? – but give him the credit he deserves.

He used his bully pulpit and Twitter account to push the NFL's owners until at last they made the right decision Wednesday, when the league adopted a new policy for the national anthem.

Surely Trump will approve considering NFL players on game day will be required to stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room, and players that protest during the anthem will face fines.  Stiff fines, you can be sure.

Is it too late for the league to recover?  After previous self-inflicted wounds by the NFL, including a couple of player strikes that enraged fans ("replacement players"? sheesh), it took the league a couple of years to recover.

But the landscape has changed considerably in just the last five years.  People are unplugging from cable and satellite in growing numbers.  The competition for viewer attention is much stiffer.  And I don't think fans will soon forget how players, owners, and the league ignored their anger and proceeded to allow the disrespect of the flag to go unpunished.

Ad rates for NFL games will be about the same this year, and since most league and team revenue comes from networks paying for the privilege of broadcasting the games, there will be little immediate effect on the bottom line.  In fact, with the advent of NFL coverage by digital platforms, the league will, at least in the short run, get richer.

That's hardly the issue.  The anthem controversy is not over.  One owner announced he would pay the fines of individual players who wanted to protest.  The players themselves may fight the rule.  If the NFL thought it could make the problem go away by changing policy, it is sadly mistaken.

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