One of the biggest stories in the NFL over the past two seasons has had nothing to do with on-field play, but instead with players demonstrating in protest before games during the playing of the national anthem. The displays, sparked by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have spread across several teams and eventually became a major national story when President Donald Trump commented on the protests during a speech in September.
The NFL has reportedly been debating for months on how to handle the protests, and it looks like they might be close to reaching a decision. According to Jim Trotter of ESPN, the NFL may decide next season to keep players in the locker room during the pre-game playing of the national anthem.
No decision by the NFL has been official for next season. It is also unclear how much input the players would have in such a decision, or if there would be a league-wide reaction if any policy was thought of as unfair.
The NFL has become increasingly image conscious on the issue ever since President Trump made the remark that he would “fire” players that decided to demonstrate during the playing of the national anthem. The issue was amplified even more when John Schnatter, then CEO of Papa John’s, said that the demonstrations had affected profits for his company. Papa John’s is one of the NFL’s biggest advertising partners.
Schnatter has since stepped down from his position as CEO following the backlash of his comments.
Kaepernick, the man who originally started the demonstrations in the 2016 preseason, has remained unsigned by any NFL team since he was released following the end of the 2016 season. Kaepernick has continued to speak out on racial issues in the United States, which Kaepernick says was the reasoning for why he protested to begin with.