Cracks are starting to appear in the National Football League’s announced plan to have its players on the field stand at attention for the national anthem in the 2018 season, which starts in three months.
The Atlanta Falcons are the latest team to voice qualms about anthem procedure, which offers players who don’t wish to participate in standing at attention the option of staying in the locker room. Those that do not comply will subject their team to fines.
The national anthem issue is beginning to surface as teams gather for the pre-season organized team activities before training camp starts in July. Last year, anthem protests were a toxic subject that dominated the season, as players kneeling, sitting, and raising fists during the national anthem caused fan anger, sponsorship and advertiser fallout, and may have contributed to an overall decline in television ratings. Several meetings between players and owners failed to resolve the issue, although the league said it would contribute $100 million to social activist causes, hoping that bribe would end the division.
The league was hoping to avoid repeating the polarizing demonstration this season by instituting its new anthem policy, which replaced the suggestion that players “should” stand with more formal instructions.
But the new rule’s reception has been decidedly mixed by players, with some already vowing not to change their protests. The NFL decision was, however, well-received by President Donald Trump, who had condemned anthem-kneelers.