The NFL officially banned kneeling Wednesday (May 23) among players who are protesting racism during the National Anthem. The movement was started by Colin Kaepernick and took off across the league last season.
League officials also issued an ultimatum: players, team and league personnel can either stand for the anthem or stay in the locker room. If players or team personnel kneel or refuse to stand on the field during the anthem, then the league will fine their team; the player or team staffer will also be subject to any punishment determined by the team. If a league staffer doesn’t stand, they will face punishment by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The move, coming off as a strict warning to players to respect the flag and give into Trump who basically threw tantrums over kneeling, is likely to draw major criticisms from activists who went hard with Kaep. Black people placed their support in him and affirmed his protest for racial justice nationwide—actions that likely had much bearing on the NFL’s controversial new decision.
Before the NFL decided on the kneeling crackdown and supported White privilege over Black lives again, its players had united together for a worthy cause. Kaepernick, with the help of several players, turned his protest moment into a movement midway through last year in a way that was so attention-grabbing it majorly pissed off Trump. The NFL, whose ratings took a hit in January as boycotts gained steam, couldn’t deal with Kaepernick and left him to the land of free agency. However, his protest has become an important flashpoint in the fight against police brutality and racial discrimination.
Keeping it all the way real, the league can’t control everything about its players. While the NFL may be able to exert some control over players’ physical movements during the anthem and kneel to Trump, it can’t stop players from being vocal about racism off the field and behind closed doors. They cannot be silenced.