- The NFL owners are reportedly discussing different ways to address the ongoing protests during the national anthem that garnered so much attention throughout the 2017 season.
- One proposed solution is to allow the home team to decide whether or not teams would come out of the locker room for the anthem, with 15-yard penalties given out to players who choose to kneel should the teams take the field.
One of the defining stories of the 2017 NFL season was the conversation surrounding the national anthem.
According to a report from Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, NFL owners have been discussing how to handle players kneeling during the anthem heading into the new season, including one radical idea: assessing 15-yard penalties to players that knelt. Per Breer:
"An idea being floated in the room goes like this: It would be up to the home team on whether both teams come out of the locker room for the anthem, and, should teams come out, 15-yard penalties could be assessed for kneeling."
It's no surprise that the league would want to address the issue, as the NFL would much prefer to remain apolitical rather than go through the media firestorm that unfolded last season. That said, a 15-yard penalty seems like an odd way to avoid an issue on such matters.
Colin Kaepernick garnered national attention for his protests two seasons ago, kneeling during the anthem to bring attention to issues including police brutality and racial inequality in the justice system. While Kaepernick was out of the league in 2017, protests of a similar nature became more common across the NFL, with players including Michael Bennett and Marshawn Lynch taking part.
The storm around the league began after President Donald Trump suggested that players that kneel for the national anthem should be fired. Teams responded with shows of unity the next Sunday, with more players taking part in the protests than ever before.
Since then, the issue hasn't resolved itself. There were meetings between owners and players that mostly revealed how far removed from the realities of the situation many owners were. Kaepernick has filed a collusion grievance against the league, arguing that it was his decision to kneel, rather than his talent level as a player, that kept him out of the league, and recent information suggests that multiple teams did, in fact, view him as a starting-caliber quarterback.
There's sure to be plenty to talk about as the NFL owners continue their spring meetings, including addressing the advent of legal sports betting and potential changes to kickoffs. But if the league hopes to avoid another year of headlines focused off the field, chances are a 15-yard flag for kneeling would only invite more controversy.
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