The days of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem may be at an end. The league announced a new policy on Wednesday determined to end anthem demonstrations.
The new policy requires all team personnel on the field to "stand and show respect for the flag and national anthem." If a player does not want to participate, they are no longer required to be on the field and can remain in the locker room.
If a player on the field doesn't stand for the anthem, his team will be fined by the league and the player will be subject to discipline from commissioner Roger Goodell.
"The policy adopted today was approved in concert with the NFL’s ongoing commitment to local communities and our country — one that is extraordinary in its scope, resources, and alignment with our players," Goodell wrote in a statement. "We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.
"The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed. The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We are honored to work with our players to drive progress."
The NFL and the Player's Coalition finalized a partnership earlier this week that will dedicate nearly $90 million in funding toward programs combating social inequality.
The anthem protests began with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remaining seated during the anthem in 2016, later evolving into the player taking a knee. He said he was doing so to protest the oppression of minorities in the United States.
Over time, Kaepernick's actions spread, with several other players around the league joining him in protest. The issue peaked last September when president Donald Trump criticized the demonstrating athletes, arguing those who take part should be fired.
There was a mass response across the league the following week. In Detroit, the team locked arms during the ensuing anthem and several players took a knee for the first time.
"It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic," Goodell wrote in the statement. "This is not and was never the case.
"We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our fans who enjoy it."
And while the league's owners believe they have found a solution, the NFLPA expressed frustration with how the policy was pushed through without consulting the union.
"The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new 'policy,'" the NFLPA wrote in a statement. "NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and ye, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.
"The vote by the NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL's Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our League
"Our union will review the new 'policy' and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement."
It's possible the anthem protests will become a negotiating point when the league's current CBA expires in 2021.