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Redskins players say little in response to new NFL national anthem policy

Several Redskins players took a knee during the national anthem before a game against the Oakland Raiders in September. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

NFL owners approved a new national anthem policy Wednesday, compelling players to stand for the playing of the anthem before a game if they are on the sideline, and several Washington Redskins players were ambivalent about the new rules when asked after an offseason practice session.

NFL’s new national anthem policy requires players to stand on sideline or remain in locker room

The new policy enables each team to create its own policy regarding the national anthem and decide whether to discipline a player who protests. It also allows players to remain in the locker room during the anthem if they choose. The league, however, can fine teams that have players who protest on the field during the anthem. The idea is to have players who don’t want to stand for the anthem stay in the locker room.

Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman said he doesn’t know what the rule should be but said he knows what he’ll do. Then he laughed and declined to detail his plans.

The new policy was announced Wednesday morning shortly before the Redskins held their second practice of organized team activities, so some players were hearing about it for the first time from reporters.

Quarterback Alex Smith acknowledged the issue is getting a lot of attention but said he didn’t have an opinion at the moment.

“It’d be tough for me to respond at this point,” Smith said.

Cornerback Quinton Dunbar also learned about the policy after practice and didn’t have a strong stance. He looks at the issue as a personal one.

“I don’t try to get into those things,” Dunbar said. “I just go with the flow. I know what my beliefs are, and as long as I know what my beliefs are, I don’t have to show it off to the world. I just keep it to myself.”

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Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first demonstrated during the national anthem in the 2016 preseason, protesting racial inequality and police brutality. This past September, President Trump called players who protest during the anthem “sons of bitches” and urged owners to fire players who protested. Owners have since been seeking a solution to try to put the focus back on the game.

“The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We are honored to work with our players to drive progress.

“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case. This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room until after the Anthem has been performed.”

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