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NFL issues strict anthem policy after years of kneeling protests

WATCH ABOVE: The NFL announced Wednesday that it would enforce a strict national anthem policy requiring players to stand or face a fine after nearly two years of protests that started by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The NFL is requiring all players and team personnel to “stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem” or the team will be fined by the league.

The league announced the anthem policy Wednesday, following nearly two years of protests started by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system. Other players took up the cause, and the gesture carried on during the 2017 season, even after Kaepernick left the 49ers and failed to land a job with another team.

READ MORE: Colin Kaepernick, anthem protests not to blame for low NFL ratings, players association says

“The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement announcing the anthem policy. “The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We are honoured to work with our players to drive progress.

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“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,” the commissioner said.

WATCH: NFL owners unanimously vote to change rules on kneeling during the national anthem

NFL owners unanimously vote to change rules on kneeling during the national anthem
NFL owners unanimously vote to change rules on kneeling during the national anthem

However, the league said it will revise the “Game Operations Manual,” to state that all players must be on the field for the playing of the anthem, and will amend it to allow for “personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room until after the Anthem has been performed.”

READ MORE: Colin Kaepernick named GQ magazine’s ‘Citizen of the Year’

“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,” Goodell said.

The league’s policy statement doesn’t specify the amount of the fine a team could face if staff fail to stand for the anthem.

Here’s a look at the policy:

-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.

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The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) rejected the “policy” saying the league “chose to not consult the union.”

Take a Knee Protest: Why athletes are refusing to stand for U.S. national anthem

“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 NFLPA said in a statement. The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our league.

“Our union will review the new “policy” and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement,” reads the statement.

U.S. President Donald Trump had criticized players for “disrespecting” the country and suggested any player protesting was a “son of a bitch” and should be fired. The president later said the protest had “nothing to do with race.”

Kaepernick filed a collusion case against NFL owners alleging a concerted effort was made to keep him out of football. Former teammate Eric Reid, a safety with the 49ers and unrestricted free agent, also followed suit.

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Kaepernick remained seated during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner before the start of a pre-season game in August, 2016. His protest was intended to be a call for action against “oppression” and how minorities are treated by police.

“I’m going to continue to stand with the people that are being oppressed,” Kaepernick said following his first protest. “To me this is something that has to change. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s supposed to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.”

Kaepernick’s protest drew support as well as outcry with many saying the NFLer was disrespecting the flag and the U.S. military. The quarterback said he was not protesting members of the military or those losing their lives for Americans’ rights and freedoms.

“There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically? Police brutality,” said Kaepernick. “There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable. People are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards.”

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