After the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans refused to take the football field on Sunday during the national anthem, the NFL said it will not fine them for that action.
Roughly 200 NFL players knelt during the anthem on Sunday in response to comments made by President Donald Trump on Friday, in which he criticized NFL players protested the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’” Trump said.
Referencing the Access Hollywood tape that was released in October 2016, NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart said Trump doesn’t understand what real locker-room talk is about.
“Looking at yesterday everyone should know, including the president, that this is what real locker-room talk is,” Lockhart said.
Lockhart said NFL officials haven’t had any contact with Trump since his comments on Friday.
“If the president wants to engage in something positive, productive and constructive, he knows our number,” Lockhart said.
Lockhart believes Trump was “out of touch” on the issue, and defended NFL players who say they are protesting the national anthem to bring attention to racial injustices in the U.S.
“The NFL and the game should appeal to all Americans,” Lockhart said. “We recognize that there are those who look at some of the protests and think it signifies some disrespect. I would just underline what the players have been saying themselves.”
According to the 2017 NFL rulebook, there’s nothing that specifically requires players to be present on the field during the playing of the national anthem.
Article 1, Section 2 of Rule 4, “Game Timing,” loosely states that the coin toss and kickoff cannot be delayed by players before the game officially begins.
Article 8 of Rule 5’s fourth section includes a broad statement dealing with personal messages that may take place during before the game, saying they are prohibited, “unless such message has been approved in advance by the League office.”
Still, according to NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy, the league does have an operations manual mandating that all players to be on the sideline for the playing of the national anthem.
In July, a J.D. Power survey found that national anthem protests were the number one reason fans tuned out NFL games last season.
Per the poll, 26 percent of viewers said player protests — which began with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 — were the number one reason they watched fewer NFL games in 2016.
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