National Football League owners reached agreement Wednesday on a policy which would require players to stand during the national anthem but give them the option of remaining in the locker room if they preferred.
The issue of how to handle player protests has loomed over the NFL’s owners meeting in Atlanta, with the sport anxious to avoid a repeat of the controversy which divided the league last season.
America’s most popular sport found itself at the centre of a political firestorm in 2017 after President Donald Trump described players who kneeled during the anthem to draw attention to racial injustice as “sons of bitches”.
The remarks prompted a wave of protests across the league in September, angering some fans and placing several conservative, Trump-supporting team owners in an awkward position.
Jets chairman Christopher Johnson says his players are free to take a knee or protest during the anthem without fear of repercussion, saying he’ll pay any fines out of his own pocket and not sanction any players. Amazing. Now I say, Good night.❤️https://t.co/fzYxasHBF3— Ricky Davila (@TheRickyDavila) May 24, 2018
With the NFL’s leadership reluctant to issue a blanket decree ordering players to stand for the anthem, the deal approved Wednesday represents a compromise.
Under current NFL regulations, all players are required to be on the field during renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
However the new policy removes that requirement, allowing players who do not wish to stand to remain in the locker room.
Players who did come onto the field for the anthems would be required to stand or else risk facing fines from their respective teams.
“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.
“Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.”
Goodell meanwhile took issue with criticism levied at protesting players that they were “unpatriotic.”
“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic,” Goodell said. “This is not and was never the case.”
Goodell later said the NFL would levy fines against teams if players came onto the field and did not stand for the anthem.
“If anyone is on the field and is disrespectful to the anthem or the flag, there will be a fine from the league against the team,” Goodell told reporters. “The team will have its own rules and make their own decisions.”
Art Rooney II, the president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, said the policy was the result of extensive consultation.
“We’re not forcing anybody to stand who doesn’t feel like it,” Rooney said. “But those that are on the field are going to be asked to stand.
“We’ve listened to a lot of different viewpoints including our fans over the past year and this policy is an attempt to get to a place where we have respected everybody’s point of view as best as we could.”
The new policy received a lukewarm greeting from the NFL Players Association earlier Wednesday.
NFLPA spokesman George Atallah noted that players’ representatives were not included in discussions about the policy.
“Maybe this new rule proposal that is being voted on is a ‘compromise’ between the NFL office and club CEOs on various sides of the issue, but certainly not with player leadership,” Atallah said. “We weren’t there or part of the discussions.”
Today’s decision by the @NFL is a win for the fans, a win for @POTUS, and a win for America. Americans can once again come together around what unites us – our flag, our military, and our National Anthem. Thank you NFL. #ProudToStand pic.twitter.com/zNwxhYGNaN— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) May 23, 2018
The kneeling protest was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 as a way to protest police brutality, racial injustice and social inequality.
Kaepernick’s protest followed a wave of deaths involving black men during confrontations with law enforcement.
In 2017, Kaepernick was unable to get an NFL job and the kneel protest was waning until Trump made an issue of it, saying the move was disrespectful to the nation and the flag – motivations never assigned by Kaepernick.
Free agents Kaepernick and Eric Reid are suing the NFL, saying league owners colluded to keep them unsigned as retaliation for the protests.
The Carolina Panthers have a new owner in David Tepper, who agreed to buy the franchise from Jerry Richardson for $2.2 billion.
The record-breaking price is the highest for an NFL team, surpassing the $1.4 billion for the Buffalo Bills in 2014.
Here’s what you need to know about 60-year-old Tepper and what he means for the Panthers.
Most importantly for Carolina fans, Tepper is expected to keep the team where they are and not relocate.
Of course, with Tepper’s background as a shrewd businessman, it’s fair to wonder if that could change down the road when an opportunity opens up. But at the moment, according to all indications, Tepper shares Richardson’s vision for the franchise in the North Carolina region.
Guess he knew it all along: New @Panthers owner David Tepper posed with his favorite @NFL helmet at Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis in February. His spokesman just released this photo pic.twitter.com/9EFKcb9jyf— Erik Spanberg (@CBJspanberg) May 16, 2018
Tepper is actually already a known name in NFL circles because he’s a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For that reason, it was simpler for the NFL to approve the sale of the Panthers to him as he’s already passed the league’s vetting process.
Tepper, who was born in Pittsburgh, will have to sell his 5 per cent stake in the Steelers before completing the Panthers purchase.
Tepper will immediately become one of the wealthiest owners in the NFL, thanks to his background as the founder of global hedge fund Appaloosa Management.
His net worth, according to Forbes, is a whopping $11 billion, so he certainly knows how to make money.
His Appaloosa offices have the look of a high-end sports bar, with Steelers memorabilia dispersed throughout.
It’s unclear how much it will matter, but one interesting tidbit on Tepper is that he’s not a fan of United States President Donald Trump.
He hasn’t been shy in his criticism of Trump, having spoken on his disapproval of the President in interviews and even at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University.
“You have one person with questionable judgment and the other person may be demented, narcissistic and a scumbag,” Tepper said back in October 2016, ahead of the Presidential election, in an interview on CNBC. “Not saying which one’s which. You can make your own decision on that.”
Trump has his fair share of supporters among owners in the NFL, but he also faced resistance last season when the league pushed back at him regarding the national anthem protests.
With Tepper now one of the most important people in the NFL, there’s a chance he and Trump butt heads.
As a quarterback, being selected in the first round of the NFL draft isn’t the be-all, end-all. Just ask Tom Brady, among others.
But there is some prestige, as well as expectation, that comes with being a QB taken within the first 32 picks, as the five players who went in the first round of last week’s draft will learn.
Here are the top five quarterbacks drafted in the first round in NFL history, beginning with the greatest number one overall pick ever.
You could see a successful career for Manning coming from a mile away when he was highly-rated in college at Tennessee and the number one overall draft pick in 1998. And yet, he somehow surpassed the hype and went on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Unlike many of his peers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback took an unorthodox route to stardom. After spending one year in junior college, Rodgers transferred to California, where he shined to become a top prospect. However, he still fell to No24 in the 2005 draft, but it all worked out in the end.
Even though Stanford had a losing record during his time in college, Elway was a can’t-miss prospect for a reason, which he showed when he got to the NFL by being drafted first overall by Baltimore in 1983. After forcing his way to Denver, Elway led the franchise to two Super Bowl wins and earned Super Bowl MVP.
Even though he’s one of the most talented quarterbacks in NFL history, Marino wasn’t even one of the first QBs taken in his draft as five others went before him in 1983. The Miami Dolphins finally selected him at No27 and Marino would go on to be a legend, even without winning a Super Bowl.
The Cleveland Browns have been a laughingstock for a while now, but there was a time when they were dominant, thanks to Graham. He was drafted fourth overall by the Detroit Lions in 1944, but didn’t join them due to being with the Navy. When he reached Cleveland, he won three championships.