After months of discussions, the NFL has banned players from kneeling during the national anthem before games. In response, some players are reportedly trying to come up with other ways to protest — not necessarily for a cause, but "just to spite the NFL," according to The Hill.
The NFL announced its new policy Wednesday. It allows players and league personnel to stay in the locker room during the national anthem if they choose; however, if they are on the field, their team will be fined by the NFL if any players "do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem."
How are players responding?
After the national anthem policy was announced, at least three reporters said they've been told players are planning new protests to get around the rule.
NBC's Craig Melvin said a former player told him "players are already talking about other ways in which they can protest."
“I talked to a former NFL player yesterday who has said that players are already talking about other ways in which… https://t.co/HR3VlVT7xy— TODAY (@TODAY) 1527160242.0
NFL Media's Jim Trotter said players have told him they are considering "staying in the locker room or making a different on-field gesture simply b/c they feel this new policy is a direct challenge to them."
While admittedly a small sample size, some players are telling me they’re *considering* staying in locker room or m… https://t.co/63ERGlEpm0— Jim Trotter (@Jim Trotter) 1527112513.0
Sports Illustrated's Robert Klemko said he has heard that players "who weren't planning demonstrations for next season are now back in the conversation, discussing ways to skirt new rules 'just to spite the NFL.'"
What I'm hearing from players: Those who weren't planning demonstrations for next season are now back in the conver… https://t.co/6zyzn2Ewic— robertklemko (@robertklemko) 1527114403.0
This writer's perspective
The NFL enacted this policy with the hope that they could "keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our fans who enjoy it," according to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Initial responses to the policy indicate that's not what will happen. A chairman for the New York Jets has already offered to pay any fines incurred by Jets players who kneel during the national anthem, and pregame television broadcasts will almost certainly focus on who is on the field and who stays in the locker room.
This policy serves as another escalation of the conflict between the players and the NFL. And it also serves as a distraction. These protests started out with a serious focus — social injustice and police brutality. That problem still exists.
If those causes are truly important to the players, they should remember to focus their protests on spurring change, rather than getting buried in a petty battle with the league over the specifics of pregame etiquette. They have many other platforms to make their voices heard that don't include this one specific form of protest.