On Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced NFL owners have approved a policy permitting players to stay in the locker room during the "The Star-Spangled Banner" but requiring them to stand if they come to the field to "show respect for the flag and the Anthem."
In a sign that players were not part of the discussions, any violations of the policy would result in fines against the team - not the players. The NFL Players Association said it will challenge any part of the new policy that violates the collective bargaining agreement.
In response, Eagles CEO and Chairman Jeffrey Lurie cheered on his players for influencing positive change.
Statement from #Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie: “I have always believed it is the responsibility of sports teams to be very proactive in our communities...— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) May 24, 2018
"I have always believed it is the responsibility of sports teams to be very proactive in our communities. In this great country of ours, there are so many people who are hurting and marginalized, which is why I am proud of our players for continuously working to influence positive change. Their words and actions have demonstrated not only that they have a great deal of respect for our country, but also that they are committed to finding productive ways to fight social injustice, poverty and other societal issues that are important to all of us. We must continue to work together in creative and dynamic ways to make our communities stronger and better with equal opportunities for all," Lurie said.
Lurie stood and linked arms with players during the anthem prior to a game against the New York Giants in September. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016, a quiet but powerful protest against police brutality and racial inequities in the justice system.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins was among the players to raise a fist during the playing of the national anthem in recent seasons.
He issued a statement on the NFL's policy, saying the NFL owners thwarted "players' constitutional rights to express themselves and use our platform to draw attention to social injustices like racial inequality in our country."
Jenkins said, "Everyone loses when voices get stifled."
The safety said the national conversation around race in America will persist "as we continue to use our voices, our time and our money to create a more fair and just criminal justice system, end police brutality and foster better educational and economic opportunities for communities of color and those struggling in this country."
"While I disagree with this decision, I will not let it silence me or stop me from fighting," Jenkins said. "For me, this has never been about taking a knee, raising a fist or anyone's patriotism but doing what we can to effect real change for real people. #thefightcontinues."
Defensive end Chris Long, who donated his last 10 game checks to programs that support educational equality in the three cities where he's played so far: Philadelphia, Boston and St. Louis, also issued his thoughts on the policy.
"This is fear of a diminished bottom line. It's also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation. This is not patriotism. Don't get it confused. These owners don't love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it. It also lets you, the fan, know where our league stands," Long said.
President Donald Trump stoked the issue during a political campaign, saying the NFL should fire any players who kneel during the anthem. During an interview that aired Thursday morning on "Fox & Friends," he praised the league for doing "the right thing."
"You have to stand proudly for the national anthem," Trump said. Or "you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there. Maybe they shouldn't be in the country."
Vice President Mike Pence called it "a win for the fans, a win for (the president), and a win for America."
The NFL didn't consult the players' union on its new policy, though Goodell stressed that the league had talked to countless players over the past year and was committed both financially and philosophically to the fight for social justice .
"We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand," Goodell said. "We've been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices, but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on."
Long said he will continue to be committed to affecting change with his platform.
"I'm someone who's always looked at the anthem as a declaration of ideals, including the right to peaceful protest. Our league continues to fall short on this issue," Long said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Send a News Tip to Action News
Learn More About 6abc Apps