National Football League (NFL) owners are engaged in discussions regarding how the league will respond to players who kneel in protest during the national anthem, and one of their reported solutions seems likely to only increase tensions between the league and players.
Sports Illustrated reported Tuesday that owners have proposed imposing a 15-yard penalty on teams whose players protest during the anthem. Whether teams are required to come out on the field during the anthem would be left up to the home team. It’s unclear why a protest that takes place before the game would result in a penalty assessed during the game.
This reported move comes from a gathering of team owners in Atlanta, Georgia, where kneeling during the anthem was to be at the top of the agenda. An NFL official previously said their expectation was for teams to set their own policies.
Many players today are kneeling in protest of police brutality and racial inequality. Then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement by taking a knee during the 2016 season.
Other players have followed his lead, but President Donald Trump’s vicious attack on protesting players in 2017 led to a massive expansion of players kneeling across various sports leagues. And while most players have not experienced professional retaliation from their employers, Kaepernick has remained without an NFL job since the 2016 season. Earlier this month, Kaepernick and fellow former 49er Eric Reid sued the NFL, alleging that the league has colluded against them for their protest.
That allegation fits into the league’s approach to the protests since Kaepernick initially took a knee. Instead of taking a definitive stance on the issue, the NFL has awkwardly sought a middle ground that seeks to avoid angering those opposed and the players who bring in millions of dollars a week.
It doesn’t help matters that Trump, the loudest critic of the protests, frequently uses the bully pulpit to blast players who participate. In a not-too-subtle dig on the NFL, the president recently lavished praise on NASCAR for not having drivers participate in the protests. Despite condemnation from many athletes, Trump has shown little interest in letting things go, ensuring that he’ll remain in the middle of this story as the 2018 season begins.