President Trump has continued to emphasize his disgust over sports players who kneel during the national anthem, after setting off a firestorm last Friday night when he suggested that coaches should fire any player who will not stand in respect for the U.S. flag and the anthem.
An NFL spokesperson stated that the NFL is not considering fining or punishing players or teams who choose to kneel or stay in the locker room during the national anthem. “There will be no discipline handed down this week for anyone who was not there,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Monday.
Lockhart was White House press secretary and senior adviser to President Bill Clinton from 1998-2000, and was hired by the NFL in January 2016 as their new executive vice president of communications.
On Tuesday morning, Trump shot out a message on Twitter suggesting that the NFL should have a rule against kneeling during the pregame tribute. “The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can’t kneel during our National Anthem!” Trump tweeted.
The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can’t kneel during our National Anthem!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2017
TIME Sports clarified Monday that there are two guideline manuals that govern NFL football games. One is the NFL rulebook, which concerns all in-game actions, such as scoring, penalties, etc. This rulebook makes no reference to the national anthem at all.
The other set of guidelines is the NFL game operations manual, which determines the organizational side of the game, including the conduct of the home clubs. According to TIME Sports, this operations manual refers to the national anthem as follows:
The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem. During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.
TIME Sports notes that the operations manual uses the word “may” result in discipline, leaving the decision completely up to the NFL officials and coaches.
The NFL Football Operations “bible” is the Game Operations Manual — nearly 200 pages of procedures and policy for regular season games alone.
The Game Operations Manual is one of the league’s three comprehensive policy manuals for member clubs — the other two are for administrative and business operations, and media and public relations — and, by necessity, it is often military-like in its precision and astonishing in its thoroughness.
The league’s Game Operations Department uses the manual to govern the conduct of home clubs, to ensure they protect players and provide the conditions for a fair and fan-friendly contest. Clubs face warnings and other penalties for noncompliance.
The Washington Post also confirmed that the specific rule pertaining to the national anthem is found on pages A62-63 of the league’s game operations manual, according to a league source. The wording has been mistakenly identified as coming from the NFL rule book by some sources.
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