The National Football League (NFL) announced a new policy Wednesday regarding player protests during the national anthem: stay in the locker room, stand, or be fined. But now it looks like the owners never officially voted for the policy after all.
“Clearly our objective as a league and to all 32 clubs, which was unanimous, is that we want people to be respectful of the national anthem,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during the NFL's announcement. Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence applauded the move by the NFL.
But sources reported the owners never held a formal vote, so who approved it unanimously?
According to a report by ESPN's Seth Wickersham, during two days of meetings on league matters in Atlanta, the "NFL just did a little informal polling and thought everyone would be cool with it."
Sources said league executives polled owners and knew how they would vote but didn’t hold an official tally, which is atypical for a major resolution."
The new policy leaves it to teams to discipline their own players for acts deemed disrespectful during the anthem. But it also gave the league wide powers to fine teams as well.
The NFL Player's Association already made a public statement that they were never consulted on the new anthem policy, also atypical of major changes affecting players. And not all team owners are singing the new anthem policy's praises either.
Three team owners distanced themselves from this policy as well. San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York announced he abstained from any decision about the policy. Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis also claims to have abstained. Their abstentions contradict Goodell's claim of a unanimous vote by all 32 owners.
Meanwhile, New York Jets chairman Chris Johnson vowed to pay any fines for his players who demonstrate during the national anthem.
“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules,” Johnson said. “If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course."
But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines. I don’t want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won’t. There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”
Johnson's announcement drew some criticism, but his Twitter post also drew praise.
The new anthem policy is catching a lot of flack on social media. Many have accused the NFL in general or Roger Goodell in particular of simply pandering to the president and vice president on the issue, without regard for the players or fans. People also questioned the NFL's priorities.
Whether the new policy stands or not remains to be seen.