In a wild turn of events that’s sadly and frustratingly in-character for the weak-willed league commission, the NFL has formally levelled a ban on its players kneeling during the American national anthem.

League commissioner Roger Goodell, an enfeebled puppet who cares far more about keeping black players silent and in-line than he does about treating issues of domestic violence with any modicum of seriousness, issued a statement this morning confirming that the league will issue a fine to the team of any player who does not “stand and show respect” for the American flag and national anthem when it is played as part of standard pre-game proceedings.

The kneeling “controversy” sparked in 2016 after then-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem to protest police brutality and systemic economic inequality being perpetrated against America’s black and non-white communities. Subsequently, he was made a finalist in last year’s Time Person of the Year, whilst being made a virtual pariah in by NFL teams, none of whom contracted him for the 2017 season despite career stats that exceeded many of the league’s (white, mostly) starting quarterbacks.

Today’s NFL ruling asserts that all players who take the field will, by rule, have to stand during the anthem. However it also stipulates that those who do not wish to stand during the anthem can remain in the locker room. Out of sight, out of mind, etc.

A statement attributed to Goodell claims that the rule is “unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business.

It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and never was the case.

Wild scenes, TBH.

The ruling leaves individual teams free to devise their own individual punishments should any of their players choose to kneel during the anthem in spite of the rule.

Almost immediately after the directive was issued, the NFL Players Association issued a terse rebuttal, asserting the league had absolutely not consulted the players in constructing the rule, despite the NFL’s statement hinting they had.

The league, which has been reeling from continued controversy in one form or another for a number of years now, hopes quite sincerely that this rule, one that effectively amounts to gagging players, will allow them to “stick to sports,” quenching the rabid thirst of conservative fans.

But really, at its core, it’s a ruling that runs dangerously close to infringing on player’s first amendment rights. If left unchallenged, that’s a mighty dangerous precedent for professional athletes in America.

The 2018-19 NFL season begins in September.

Source: New York Times
Image: Getty Images / Christian Peterson