Two days after banning its players from demonstrating during the national anthem, the NFL faced protests across the country on Friday as several civil rights organizations held rallies in Sacramento, Detroit, and outside the league offices in Manhattan to decry the controversial new policy.
Some, such as Rev. Kevin McCall of the National Action Network, compared the NFL’s decision to the act of a slave owner because the players were not consulted – something the NFL Players Association has stated as their concern and one reason San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York abstained from voting at Wednesday’s meeting.
‘It’s a disrespectful policy because you didn’t include [the players] in the conversation,’ McCall told the Daily Mail. You didn’t include them in anything. You just did this like Negroes and slave owners: “Get on the field, play, and if you don’t do that, then you’ll get disciplined.”‘
New York Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, second from right, with the help of Kirsten John Foy, second from left, Northeast Regional Director of the National Action Network, holds a jersey with Colin Kaepernick’s name on the back, during a rally of civil rights activists outside of the NFLís headquarters. Tamika Mallory, far right, compared the NFL owners’ mindset to that of slave owners, saying, ‘They own these young men in their minds’
Protesters rally outside the NFL headquarters against the league’s new national anthem policy
‘They own these young men in their minds,’ said Tamika Mallory, one of the organizers for the Women’s March, as quoted by NBC News.
‘The slave owners have said that if the slaves get out of line, we will show them,’ she said, adding, ‘The question is: What will the rest of us do about them putting the slaves in line?’
The NFL did not respond to a request for comment.
On Wednesday NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the league’s new policy to address the ongoing controversy of players protesting inequality and police brutality by kneeling during The Star-Spangled Banner. Teams will now be fined for any personnel on the field that fails to show that the league deems to be proper respect for the anthem. However, players are now given the option of staying in the locker room.
Prior to 2009, players were not required to be on the field during the anthem.
Teams will have the option of fining players.
On Friday, speakers such as Minister Kirsten John Foy accused President Donald Trump of ‘weaponizing’ the national anthem as the NFL capitulated.
‘Let’s move on to how we repair and rebuild our culture and our nation and stopped being pimped by a pimp and used as a proxy for fascism and racism,’ Foy said to a crowd of a few hundred spectators in midtown Manhattan. ‘Because what these billionaires have now become is part of Trump’s harem.’
The power we have is 1.3 trillion of our spending. Whenever there is a corporate entity that is complicit in the behavior that is abusive and oppressive to people of color, we can use that 1.3 trillion until we are able to use our votes int eh midterms and then in the general election.
The NFL Players Association responded to the new rule on Wednesday afternoon
The slavery analogy may seem harsh, but it’s one that Dr. Clyde Kuemmerle, a priest and founder of Ecclesia Ministries of New York, feels is appropriate.
‘I don’t think every owner has that exact attitude, but I think a lot of them do,’ Kuemmerle told the Daily Mail. ‘I don’t believe that players should be treated as chattel.’
Kuemmerle, who led mass at Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2012, also spoke to the gathered protestors on Friday, imploring former players to lend their voices today’s athletes.
‘You’re getting your pension from the players’ association,’ he said. ‘You’ve got some power there. You’ve got to show up on this issue.’
Katrina Jefferson, the New York City chapter coordinator for the NAN, agreed that the NFL’s decision pushes the onus of punishing the players onto the teams.
‘In a way, the league was saying, we’re going to penalize you [the teams], but we’re going to leave it up to you to do the dirty work and penalize your players.
New York Jets chairman Chris Johnson told Newsday that the team will not be asking players to pay any fines – something that McCall believes ‘should be commended’ even though Johnson voted in favor of the new policy.
‘We’re having a conversation with him to see how we can get other owners on board,’ McCall told the Daily Mail.
Chris Johnson (center) said he will not fine any Jets players for protesting during the anthem
Johnson said he plans to meet with coach Todd Bowles to discuss a plan for the 2018 season
Several others in attendance, including Jefferson, agreed with San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York, who suggested forgoing concession sales during the anthem.
‘No one else has to stop except the players and the league staff,’ Jefferson said. ‘Concessions don’t stop. The jerseys are continuing to be sold. The box offices are still open. And everyone else is still working as usual. It’s immoral.’
49ers owner Jed York did not vote on Wednesday because he felt players and officials were not included in the decision
York and Oakland’s Mark Davis were the only two owners to abstain from voting.
Meanwhile in Sacramento, Rev. Al Sharpton criticized the league for depriving players of their first amendment rights.
‘The ruling that came out today from the NFL was outrageous,’ Sharpton said from at the California State Capitol building, as quoted by Sacramento’s ABC affiliate. ‘To threaten people or [fine] them for [exercising] their First Amendment right is something that, in my opinion, is against the Constitution of the United States that guarantees the freedom of speech. We have a right to protest.’
In Detroit, the NAN demanded that the hometown Lions flat-out ignore the NFL’s new policy.
‘The policy to force athletes to have to stay in the locker room for standing up for what they believe in is racist, and not only is it racist, it is a challenge to the First Amendment and freedom of speech,’ pastor Charles Williams II said, as quoted by Click On Detroit.
Another popular topic was the hypocrisy of the NFL, which has been criticized for its handling of players accused of domestic violence, sexual offenses, and in the case of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, cruelty to animals.
‘We have the NFL who allows women abusers and rapists and people who abuse animals to play in the field and allow them to be on the national stage, but then we’re not allowing men who want to stand up for their communities,’ said Linda Sarsou, the executive director Mpowerchange.org.
Rev. Charles Williams II, president of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, speaks to reporters outside Ford Field, home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions
NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL’S STATEMENT
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell believes the league’s new policy will put the focus back on the game and alleviate the controversy over the player protests
The policy adopted today was approved in concert with the NFL’s ongoing commitment to local communities and our country – one that is extraordinary in its scope, resources, and alignment with our players. We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.
The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed. The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We are honored to work with our players to drive progress.
It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.
This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room until after the Anthem has been performed.
We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it – and on our fans who enjoy it.
The 32 member clubs of the National Football League have reaffirmed their strong commitment to work alongside our players to strengthen our communities and advance social justice. The unique platform that we have created is unprecedented in its scope, and will provide extraordinary resources in support of programs to promote positive social change in our communities.
The membership also strongly believes that:
- All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
- The Game Operations Manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the Anthem.
- Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the Anthem has been performed.
- A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
- Each club may develop its own work rules, consistent with the above principles, regarding its personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
- The Commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.