NFL owners approved a new policy on Wednesday requiring all league players and team personnel show respect to the United States flag and stand during the singing of the national anthem.
The league’s 32 owners are in Atlanta this week for the NFL’s spring meeting. Commissioner Roger Goodell said addressing the kneeling protests was critical, as the controversy “created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic.”
“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” 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.”
Teams will be fined if players or personnel do not obey the new policy. While there is to be no more kneeling, Goodell praised the players for bringing awareness to what they believe is continued social injustices in America.
“The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed. The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We are honored to work with our players to drive progress,” Goodell concluded.
Players kneeling during the national anthem began in 2016 when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest “the treatment of blacks in the United States.” Over the past two seasons, hundreds more began kneeling, and it turned off many fans.
Television ratings have been down the past two years. The NFL pointed to the 2016 presidential election as reason many fans weren’t glued into games during highly watched debates between then-candidate Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Last fall, the league had little excuses for fans turning away from the NFL.
In Las Vegas, the NFL has always reigned as king in terms of sports betting handle, but college football has increasingly closed the gap. The South Point said it took more wagers on college games than NFL contests in multiple weeks last fall.
The NFL owners want to make sure their fanbases are increasing, and hope to return patrons to stadium seats by creating a more patriotic environment where all stand in honor of the country’s national anthem.
The policy amendment isn’t the only critical issue facing the league. With the Supreme Court’s recent repeal of the longstanding federal sports betting ban, sportsbooks are expected to come to casinos across the country.
This week, Goodell issued four “core principles” that Congress should enact to safeguard the integrity of pro football.
Goodell has been adamantly opposed to the legalization of sports betting outside of Nevada. But with the SCOTUS decision, states can now determine their own sports betting regulations.
Sports betting was already an issue Goodell and the league was going to have to face, as the Oakland Raiders are scheduled to relocate to Las Vegas for the start of the 2020 season. The team’s $1.8 billion stadium is being built just steps from the Strip and dozens of sportsbooks.
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