We Need To Address The NFL Rules On Player Behavior During The National Anthem.

Mockarena, Co-Founder

Yesterday, the following Facebook message spread like wildfire all over the internet (this is just one of many examples that people on our own page were posting to us and within comment threads.)

Now, I don’t blame people (too much, anyway) for sharing that, as it comes directly from the Washington Post’s article.

From the WaPo piece:

Under the league rule, the failure to be on the field for the anthem may result in discipline such as a fine, suspension or loss of a draft pick. But a league official said the key phrase is “may” result, adding he won’t speculate on whether the Steelers would be disciplined.


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. It states:


“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.”

Now, I went after the two contributors of that article at the WaPo on Twitter to get clarification, because if you look at the NFL Rule Book, available in its entirety at NFL’s website, there is not a single mention of the word “anthem.” Which is why it’s driven me so absolutely batsh*t that so many people keep spreading that around on Facebook without bothering to do the very simple due diligence it takes to look for themselves at the rule book they think they’re quoting.

It’s not in the rulebook, you guys.

Now, on Twitter, Mark Maske and Cindy Boren, who are responsible for the WaPo piece which started this whole thing, are NOW insisting that even though it’s not in the rule book, it IS in a “game operations manual.”

A manual, by the way, that they refuse to link to, or share a photograph of, or anything.  We’re apparently just supposed to take their word for it because an anonymous league official said it.  Or something.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t actually doubt for a single second that this rule exists in an ops manual or code of conduct or something.  But I’m getting really irritated that there is no actual evidence of that, other than Mark Maske of the WaPo SAYING so.  Sorry, but that’s not good enough.

And it’s definitely not OK that so many people are spreading around the false rumor that anything about the national anthem is in the official NFL rulebook.  That’s just flat out false.

Now, you can make a case for the rule below applying to this sh*tstorm, and I’d agree with you wholeheartedly.  This does, in fact, come straight from the rulebook.

SO just to recap, the NFL is apparently deciding that conveying personal messages is now officially approved, with respect to this rule.  It doesn’t matter that the league’s own rule says that they won’t grant permission for any player to display or convey a personal message that relates to political activities or causes.  They’re just throwing that rule right out the window, apparently.

I mean, rules schmules, amirite?

The NFL is a giant pile of steaming hypocrisy.  And while I wholeheartedly believe that there probably IS an ops manual somewhere that DOES have that specific quote in it that the WaPo reported, no one has been able to pony up evidence of it yet.  Once they do, the NFL should be held to account, and questioned relentlessly about it.

Until then, everyone please stop spreading around the false information about the anthem being mentioned in the rule book.  That’s not helping anything.