The NFL May Change Their National Anthem Policy Next Year

Anthem protests to be discussed in March 2018 league meeting.

Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones owner says player who kneel during anthem won't play.
Members of the Dallas Cowboys link arms before the National Anthem at the start of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
By David Kiefaber / November 27, 2017 10:00 am

A change to the NFL’s national anthem rules may be forthcoming, as team owners react to the kneeling protests begun by Colin Kaepernick.

Up until 2009, players remained in the locker room for the duration of the anthem. The current ruling is that players and coaches must be on the sidelines for the anthem, although it is not a requirement that they stand. If the protests continue throughout the season, however, owners may vote to return to the pre-2009 anthem policy at the annual league meeting next March.

Kaepernick’s protest, originally done as a response to police misconduct, remains extremely controversial among fans. It also earned him the ire of President Donald Trump, who denounced him and other members of the NFL on Twitter earlier this year and in campaign speeches before that. NFL sponsors have also criticized the protest, which has been taken up by other players throughout 2017.

Most team owners, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, would prefer that players stand for the anthem, but so far no one has made a serious move to outright require it. Relatedly, there is a feeling among owners and NFL executives alike that the anthem controversy has contributed to the league’s declining ratings and revenues.