The NFL has apparently (and very, very quietly) changed a rule that now allows penalties – including lost draft picks – for teams whose players don’t show up for the National Anthem.
The Daily Mail reports:
On Monday Night Football, ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen referenced the rule as it is currently written in the NFL's game operations manual. Most significantly, the policy now states: '[Players' f]ailure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.'
According to Deadspin, which previously obtained a 2014 copy of the NFL's Policy Manual for Member Clubs, that language is new. The policy previously read that failure to be on the field by the start of the national anthem may 'result in disciplinary action from the League office.'
The Daily Mail points out that this language seems to suggest that for the first time, teams could wind up losing one or more of their draft picks if their players fail to take the sidelines during the anthem. This updated rule not only empowers teams to punish individual players for sitting out the Star-Spangled Banner, but also allows for the entire team to be penalized by the league if their players don't show up, providing a pretty strong incentive for teams to require their players to show a little respect for the anthem.
On top of that, an NFL official reportedly told Sports Illustrated that the league is considering a new rule requiring players to stand for the National Anthem.
News of the apparently updated rule comes after weeks of fan protests and boycotts following dozens of players’ refusal to stand – or even show up – for the playing of the National Anthem. NFL ratings have tanked amid fan upset, while recent polls show professional football is now America’s least-favorite sport.
(Cover photo: Twitter)