Sentiment growing among NFL owners to change pregame anthem protocols for 2018
The league could return to its pre-2009 policy after a year in which pregame protests took center stage
There was a growing sense coming out of the recent owner's meeting that changes will be coming to the NFL's pregame protocols, according to several league sources, in an ongoing attempt to manage the issue of protests during the national anthem.
Many owners believe the most direct and least cumbersome way to avoid anthem protests moving forward is to return to the pregame operations schedule used prior to 2009, which sources said continues to be discussed informally between owners and is expected to be a more formally entertained at March meetings.
In 2009 the NFL began having teams stand on sidelines for all games. At that time individual teams had contracts with various military organizations - but not the league itself - as part of the pre-game festivities. The NFL changed those regulations in 2016.
Prior to 2009, at which time the NFL entered a contract with the Defense Department involving military displays before games, players were not mandated to be on the sidelines for the anthem at primetime games. There is growing support for going back to that template, as well as possibly moving up when the anthem is played to earlier before kickoff and closer to when pregame warm-ups end, at which times the sidelines are often vacant.
There has been chatter among owners as well about possibly changing the wording in the game-day operations regarding the anthem. Currently, language stipulates that players "should" stand at that time, which some believe changing that to "shall" or "must" is in order. However, doing so could require a formal vote and back-and-forth with the NFLPA, and with this already a hot-button topic that has engendered outrage among certain groups and politicians, the sense I get is owners would like to deal with this in the offseason in a less drawn out and obtrusive manner.
Regardless, I'm convinced a change of some sort is coming to the pregame protocols in order to avoid the ongoing controversy during the 2018 season.
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