If there were any doubt how the Trump administration would react to the NFL’s new national anthem policy, Vice President Pence ended the suspense with a single word: “Winning.” The Eagles’ Chris Long, however, offered a different take, saying, “This is not patriotism.”
Both reactions were delivered Wednesday via Twitter, during an outpouring of online responses to the NFL’s attempt to settle an issue that has roiled the worlds of sports and politics for almost two years. The league is hoping that its new approach will help defuse its vexing problem of player protests, which have divided fans and again demonstrated the country’s political polarization. But Long and Philadelphia teammate Malcolm Jenkins made it clear Wednesday that they don’t think much of the new policy, and that their social activism will continue.
“This is fear of a diminished bottom line,” Long tweeted. “It’s also fear of a president turning his base against a corporation.”
Long was referring to President Trump’s frequent and withering criticisms of the pregame demonstrations, which have included players sitting or kneeling during the anthem to protest racial injustice. Jenkins was among a handful players who opted to stand but raise their fists during the anthem, and Long made a point of showing support for his teammate before games.
“What NFL owners did today was thwart the players’ constitutional rights to express themselves and use our platform to draw attention to social injustices like racial inequality in our country,” Jenkins wrote on Twitter of the new policy, in which players can either stand on the sidelines during the anthem or remain in the locker room, with individual teams subject to league fines for any player demonstrations visible to spectators. “Everyone loses when voices get stifled,” Jenkins added, ending his comments with the phrase, “The fight continues,” rendered as a hashtag.
Earlier on Wednesday, Pence had also used a hashtag to celebrate the policy as an example of “Winning.” He added an image of an American flag and an image of a CNN story about the new policy, which described the NFL’s decision as “a stunning victory for President Trump.” His tweet was retweeted by the White House’s official @POTUS account.
“Today’s decision by the @NFL is a win for the fans, a win for @POTUS, and a win for America,” Pence said in a subsequent tweet. “Americans can once again come together around what unites us — our flag, our military, and our National Anthem. Thank you NFL.” He added in a hashtag, “#ProudToStand.”
The league’s decision simultaneously prompted unease, if not disgust, from a different segment of observers, with “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd writing that the policy “feels un-American” and calling it “a band aid that won’t stick.”
The policy, as The Post’s Mark Maske reported, “empowers each team to determine its own anthem policy and decide whether to discipline a player for a protest during the anthem. It also removes the previous requirement, included in the game operations manual sent by the league to teams, that players must be on the sideline for the anthem, instead giving a player the option to remain in the locker room during the anthem. But the new policy also says the league can fine a team for any protest during the anthem by one of its players. Owners said their expectation is that if a player opts to be on the sideline for the anthem, rather than remaining in the locker room, that player will stand.”
Whether this policy will ease the anthem issue by the start of the league’s 2018 regular season remains to be seen. But judging from the initial reactions, the NFL hasn’t yet found a policy to please everyone. Here are a sample of some of the early responses to the NFL’s decision.
Accusations of hypocrisy
Concerns over the unilateral nature of the decision
Comparisons to the NBA
Questions about continued dissent
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