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Baltimore Ravens players kneel down during the playing of the U.S. national anthem before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Sept. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

NFL Teams Will Be Fined if Players Kneel During National Anthem

The NFL’s team owners passed down a new directive on Wednesday that allows the league to punish players and fine teams for kneeling during the national anthem. 

The decision was met with dismay from activists and players who say the policy violates the right to free speech, The New York Times reports

“What NFL owners did today was thwart the players’ constitutional rights to express themselves and use our platform to draw attention to social injustices like racial inequality in our country,” Malcolm Jenkins, a player on the Philadelphia Eagles and head of the Players Coalition, said in a statement. “Everyone loses when voices get stifled.”

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The NFL framed the new policy as a compromise. Although the policy effectively bans players from kneeling, it allows players who do not wish to stand to stay in the locker room during the national anthem.

“The new policy will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our fans who enjoy it,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement

President Donald Trump expressed support for the new policy, saying that “NFL owners did the right thing” and that players who don’t stand for the anthem “maybe ... shouldn't be in the country.” 

Read More: The Political History Behind the NFL’s #TakeAKnee Protests

Players, commentators, and fans alike took to social media to comment on the new policy: 

While the phenomenon of players protesting police brutality during the national anthem began in 2016 with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the roots of kneeling in protest can be traced back to the Civil Rights Movement.  

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