NFL Rulebook Requires Players to Stand for National Anthem-Mostly Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
The NFL rulebook requires players to be on the sidelines and stand for the National Anthem, according to a Facebook post calling on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to punish players for protesting.
NFL policies regulate player and team conduct for the National Anthem — but NFL rules don’t specifically require players to stand for the National Anthem.
These claims began circulating on Facebook in September 2017 after President Donald Trump’s call for NFL owners to fire the “sons of bitches” who kneel or sit during the National Anthem sparked a firestorm of debate.
The claim that the NFL rulebook forbids National Anthem protests is false. The rulebook outlines things like basic game rules, penalties, field dimensions, clock management, etc. No policies regarding before- or after-game practices, procedures or player conduct are included in the rulebook.
Those policies are outlined in a separate NFL Game Operations Manual. The NFL states that the operations manual aims to ensure that, “like clockwork, the players appear, the National Anthem is sung and the game begins — precisely on time.”
The NFL does not make its game operations manual publicly available, but an NFL spokesperson told TIME magazine that the operations manual does regulate National Anthem procedures and player conduct:
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.
According to the spokesperson’s account, the manual states that players “should” stand for the National Anthem, and that failure to be on the field before a game starts “may” result in punishment. In other words, these aren’t hard-and-fast rules — and these policies are in place to ensure games start on time, not to prevent player protests. When it comes to players refusing to stand or refusing to take the field, the NFL’s policy has been to not punish them, and the NFL has indicated that the policy won’t change going forward:
After the NFL games on September 24, 2017, similar (false) rumors circulated that the NFL fined each member of the Pittsburgh Steelers $1 million for refusing to stand on the sideline for the National Anthem. That hasn’t been the NFL’s policy, and Goodell said he was “proud” of the league’s response to Trump’s comments.
In the end, we’re calling this one “mostly fiction” because the NFL has some ability to punish players and teams for conduct during the National Anthem, but NFL rules don’t specifically ban player protests.