The controversy over protests taking place during the national anthem before games wasn’t likely to go away completely no matter what the NFL did this season, though officials hoped a new policy would help reduce tensions over the issue. But with all parties unable to come to a satisfactory agreement, it looks like the league will instead take no action at all.
According to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, league sources say that the NFL isn’t expected to implement a national anthem policy at any point this season, despite the fact that ongoing discussions continue between the league and the NFLPA on the issue.
Strong Beliefs Prevent Compromise
According to sources cited in the report, there were simply too many people who felt too strongly about their stances for a compromise to be reached between all parties. As such, the NFL is scrapping any plans to come up with a league-wide policy on protests for the coming season, though the league continues to discuss how it can work with players to address issues of social justice.
Players have been taking a knee during the national anthem since the 2016 season. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick began protesting policy brutality and racial injustice that preseason by first sitting and later kneeling while the song was played. Since that time, various players have protested in similar ways on a nearly weekly basis.
During the first week of the 2018 season, at least two players kneeled: wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson of the Miami Dolphins, who had begun doing so in the preseason. A handful of other players raised fists or stayed in the locker room during the anthem.
NFL owners had agreed to a new anthem policy in May that would require all players to stand for the anthem if they were on the sidelines before the start of the game, with teams being fined for violations of the policy. Players were given the option of staying in the locker room during the national anthem without the threat of punishment.
NFL Hopes No Policy is Good Policy
However, the NFLPA was not consulted about that policy, leading them to pressure the league into delaying implementation. Now, it appears as though no progress will be made on the issue until at least the end of the current season.
Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has become one of the faces of the protest movement, said that the goal this season was to reframe the discussion surrounding the protests.
“At this point, it’s important for us as a movement to change and adapt to the context of the situation,” Jenkins said after the Eagles 18-12 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday. “I think there’s a huge need for us to turn the attention towards the issues and, not only the issues, but what players are doing in their communities to affect change.”
The decision not to implement a national anthem policy comes on the heels of Kaepernick emerging as the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. Kaepernick stars in a commercial for the campaign, which aired during the Thursday Night Football broadcast.
“I think Nike did a good job with taking the context of what’s happening right now and taking someone who has been, to this point, demonized and vilified in the media and held him up on a pedestal,” Jenkins said. “Quite frankly, I think, long after this is done, Kap will be looked at as someone who not only changed the direction of his sport but…quite frankly, our country.”