NFL team owners are taking action against players who choose to kneel during the national anthem

NFL team owners are taking action against players who choose to kneel during the national anthem.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Wednesday that owners who gathered for the league’s annual spring meeting in Atlanta voted to fine teams with players who do not stand while on the field or sidelines during “The Star Spangled Banner,” according to The New York Times.

In one concession to protesting players, the owners voted to change the rule requiring players to be visible on or near the field during the national anthem — instead allowing them to remain in the locker room without penalty.

“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” Goodell said in a statement. “Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.”

Credit: Michael Dwyer/AP

According to the Washington Post, individual teams would determine how players who violate anthem-related rules would be disciplined, but all teams would likely face a fine from the league if any players are visibly not standing during the anthem. The change is expected to go into effect next season.

The NFL national anthem controversy began in August 2016 when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick declined to stand for the national anthem when it was played before games. President Trump fueled the controversy in a series of tweets, and stated that NFL owners should fire players who don’t stand for the anthem.

Colin Kaepernick

Wednesday’s policy was agreed upon without input from the NFL Players Association, according to Sports Illustrated, and the group said they are issuing a statement reviewing the new policy. It also noted that “the NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.”

The Times reports that NFL owners, players and executives met to discuss the anthem issue last month, and while the players wanted to discuss the Kaepernick issue specifically, owners had concerns about the publicity surrounding the anthem issue.

Even Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a longtime friend and supporter of Trump, spoke out about his concerns about the kneeling controversy.

“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” Kraft reportedly said, per an audio recording the Times received of the meeting. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”