The NFL is well known for its tenacity in enforcing rules, particularly on the field of play, but Commissioner Roger Goodell is making an exception for players protesting the national anthem.
The NFL’s game operations manual specifically requires both teams to appear on the field for the national anthem, standing at attention and holding their helmets in their left hands while remaining quiet.
Failure to comply can result in fines, suspensions, and the loss of draft picks.
Yet, on Sunday entire teams hid in the locker room and face no disciplinary action.
“There will be no discipline handed down this week for anyone who was not there,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told USA Today.
The spokesman described Sunday as “an important day for the league,” saying “the real effort here is to make progress in the community on issues of inequality, and to not get distracted by political attacks or things that don’t help us make progress.”
And we though the “real effort” was to play football for the enjoyment of the paying customers.
The rules, as stated on pages A62-63 of the league’s game operations manual:
The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.
During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure 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.
Snopes.com claims the rule doesn’t exist in the 2017 version of the Official Playing Rules of the National Football League, but the game operations manual is separate from the rule book, according to Grabien News.
Goodell was quick to react in 2016, threatening to fine players if they wore specially designed cleats to commemorate 9/11, which marked the opening day of the season — in the end, the players were not fined.
That same year, he would not allow the Dallas Cowboys to pay tribute to FIVE police officers assassinated by a black man who expressed sympathies toward Black Lives Matter.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) August 13, 2016
Meanwhile, just days before the five Dallas cops were killed, Cleveland Browns player Isaiah Crowell posted a disturbing photo on Instagram of an officer having his throat slashed.
“They give police all types of weapons and they continually choose to kill us…#Weak,” the caption read.
Posted and then deleted from Isaiah Crowell's Instagram. pic.twitter.com/5gquTsL1Qc
— Cleveland Sports Talk (@CLEsportsTalk) July 11, 2016
Crowell quickly deleted the graphic image and apologized, saying that “it was an extremely poor decision and I apologize for that mistake and for offending people.”
To his credit, Crowell also attended the funeral of Patrick Zamarripa, one of the five slain Dallas police officers, and pledged a game check — about $35,000 — to the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation, according to Cleveland.com.
It does not appear that the NFL took any disciplinary action.
“The image was inappropriate and insensitive,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said at the time. “He realized this, took down the post and has since apologized.”
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