Some of the nation’s most prominent civil rights groups have sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell urging him to change the league’s new policy requiring players who are on the field to stand at attention for the national anthem, USA Today reports.
“This policy represses peaceful, non-disruptive protest of police violence against unarmed African Americans and other people of color,” the letter reads. “It is disappointing that a league built on grit and competition lacks the constitution to stomach a call for basic equality and fairness.
“Compelling players to stand for the national anthem erodes the values that the flag represents and tells the world that the NFL does not care about racial justice.”
Civil rights groups stand by players protesting inequality, injustice
USA Today spoke with Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law about the letter.
“As national organizations, we are uniting to make clear that we stand with those players who chose to use their platform to call attention to ongoing police shootings of unarmed people in our country,” Clarke said. “This is an issue that is not going away and will remain the subject of intense national interest.”
USA Today reported that several groups joined the Lawyer’s Committee seeking to change the NFL’s policy.
In addition to the Lawyers’ Committee, other groups calling for a reversal, include the NAACP, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the American Civil Liberties Union (the ACLU), the National Immigration Law Center, the National Action Network, the Advancement Project and the Arab American Institute.
NFL policy punishes players protesting injustice
Goodell announced the new policy in May in response to controversy over players kneeling during the anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality in the United States.
Per the policy:
“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.”
The policy provides Goodell open-ended authority to discipline those who don’t comply.
“The Commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”
Civil rights group oppose policy influenced by Donald Trump
Owners reportedly came up with the policy under pressure from President Donald Trump, who has been a vocal critic of NFL players who protest during the anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired,” Trump said at a September political rally. “He’s fired!’ You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.'”
Earlier in June, Trump disinvited the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles from the traditional White House visit after reports that several players decided not to attend.
Trump, who had previously applauded the new NFL anthem policy, then blasted the Eagles and the portion of the new policy allowing players to remain in the locker room during the anthem.
The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
The NFL has not publicly commented on the letter sent to Goodell.
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