We’re hearing reaction locally to the NFL’s new policy regarding the national anthem at football games. The league is mandating that players who are on the sidelines stand during the anthem. This comes after a season when many players sat down for the anthem in protest against social injustice and racial inequality.
KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel talked with Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick about his reaction to the new policy.
Thiel warned of unintendend consequences of the new policy when the 2018 season gets underway.
"What happens if all the white guys are out there along the sidelines and all the black players are in the locker room? What kind of tension is that going to create within that team? What is it going to look like to the fans in the stands and on TV?"
"What's going to happen if a player is in the locker room before the anthem who needs to use the bathroom? Or needs to get an injury tended to? Or needs to get equipment repaired and he comes out?"
"It adds up to a poorly thought-out strategy to try to resolve a really gnarly problem," Thiel said. "The owners are not thinking like players. Players are not thinking like owners."
"It's clear that they have reached a level of dysfunction here because this is not a quality solution to try to allow players freedom of expression. That is no way to run a league."
Seahawks Players Speak Out
"Doug Baldwin and K.J. Wright talked this week about how disappointed they were in this decision and it didn't seem to advance anybody's understanding or it certainly didn't advance what the players were seeking," he continued.
"They are upset about the lack of social justice in America and the racial inequalities. It's not anything to do with the military or being unpatriotic."
"There is nothing more patriotic than protest as we've seen throughout our history. It's provided for in the Constitution. And it's indulged by the courts. And it's a very vital function of what makes America a democracy."
"So, don't misconstrue these actions as being anti-anthem, as some people in certain White Houses do."
Players Had No Say In Policy
"This policy is not part of the collective bargaining agreement. This was part of the game operations manual," Thiel added.
"This was a custom. It's not a rule. It's not any kind of law. And it never existed before 2009 because the players all stayed in the locker rooms during the anthem. Only since '09 have the players been on the sidelines."
"And now they're being asked to make a choice about staying out there or being inside, neither of which I think will satisfy a lot of players."
"It's only going to provide more dischord and difficulity in managing the team. It's made the game more difficult instead of easier."