In continuation with our current dystopian fever dream, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and owners released a statement outlining a new policy that will require players to stand for the national anthem, a policy which received unanimous approval from the owners. Players who don't want to stand, can stay in the locker room and teams will be fined if everyone on the field does not stand for the anthem. The new policy is a direct reaction to police brutality protests that spread throughout the league since 2016.
The press release is filled with a kind of doublespeak that bends the perception of players' free will—not to mention the will of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA)—toward the will of the league's corporate strategy. The opening lines say it all:
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 NFL is dedicated to collaborating with the players, but the players were not consulted when the league brass was cooking up this new policy.
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.
So very unfortunate that the players created the false perception of owners comparing their players to criminals or literally threatening not to play any player who protested during the anthem. It is such a shame that these players were painted as villains by the very people who want to collaborate with them and feel so bad they have been labelled unpatriotic!
Maybe there is a way, in the very next sentence of this statement, to make it clear that we are not equating patriotism to standing for the national anthem.
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.
Then ownership adds their own statement, which goes on to list several parameters to the policy:
The membership also strongly believes that:
1. All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
2. The Game Operations Manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the Anthem.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. The Commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
Just so we are clear: the new NFL policy allows the league to fine teams, allows teams to create their own rules around anthem protests (wonder how that's gonna work out), and also allows Roger Goodell to do whatever he wants to anyone who "does not stand and show respect for the flag and Anthem."
The NFLPA, understandably, took issue with the statement:
Mind you: the NFLPA recently filed a grievance, on behalf of former San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, against the NFL, claiming collusion. The grievance included the language:
"The NFL has made it clear both publicly and to the NFLPA that they would respect the rights of players to demonstrate."
So much for that.
This article originally appeared on VICE Sports US.