National Anthem Policy ‘Infringes on Player Rights,’ NFL Players Association Argues

NFL’s kneeling ban challenged in new grievance

The NFL Players Association filed a grievance Tuesday that challenged the league’s policy that bans kneeling during the National Anthem.

“This new policy, imposed by the NFL’s governing body without consultation with the NFLPA, is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights,” said the NFLPA in a statement. “In advance of our filing today, we proposed to the NFL to begin confidential discussions with the NFLPA Executive Committee to find a solution to this issue instead of immediately proceeding with litigation. The NFL has agreed to proceed with those discussions and we look forward to starting them soon.”

The NFL did not immediately respond for comment.

In May, the league unilaterally imposed new guidelines that barred players from kneeling on the field during the playing of the anthem. “All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and Anthem,” reads the new guidelines. “A club will be fined by the league if its personnel are on the field and so not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”

Players are allowed to remain in the locker room during the anthem to protest.

With the new NFL season on the horizon — training camp begins at the end of July — the controversy that has embroiled the league for the better part of the last two seasons could rear its head again. It could lead to another nasty battle between the players and owners ahead of the Sept. 6 kick-off game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.

Defenders of the policy have pointed to the NBA’s own National Anthem rules, which also requires all players to stand. The key difference here is that the NBA’s rules were collectively bargained with the NBA Players Association, whereas the NFL’s rules were decided amongst the owners only. That’s the NFLPA’s chief argument.