By Michael Teich
The NFL is trying to make it clear to its players, fans, and marketing partners that it believes in the power of the America brand, and kneeling during the national anthem will not be tolerated, said Bram Weinstein, a former anchor at ESPN.
All 32 team owners endorsed a new league policy that subjects teams to a fine if a player or another member of a team's staff does not stand for the national anthem. However, players may choose to stay in the locker room during the anthem, the league said.
With the new policy, the NFL is telling its players that the football field is not a platform for their social activism, said Weinstein, even if the league's statement said it is interested in working with players "to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a news conference Wednesday that the on-field protests, "created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic." That perception, among other issues, may have contributed to the league's falling TV ratings, said Weinstein.
The NFL Players Association was quick to criticize the policy, saying in a statement that it would "challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement."
The player's are unlikely to strike, but "something is going to happen" because it is still important to the players to show support to their communities, said Weinstein.
Some NFL players have been taking a knee during the national anthem, led by then-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his 49ers teammate Eric Reed, who began kneeling two years ago to bring attention to issues of police brutality and racial equality.
Kaepernick hasn't played in the league since 2016 and was an unsigned free agent. He filed a grievance against the NFL last year alleging that the owners colluded against him.
“They’ve already been threatened, and a couple of them have been blackballed," said Weinstein. "The league can pretend that's not happening, but Colin Kaepernick is an example of what can happen to your employment future in this league if you continue to do this."
"It's a real live threat,” he said.
For full interview, click here.