Politics

Members Find Fault With NFL’s New National Anthem Policy

New guidelines criticized from both sides

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said he will boycott the NFL this season because of its policy fining players who kneel during the National Anthem. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Members of Congress found a partisan divide over the NFL’s new policy on players kneeling in protest during the national anthem.

The league announced last week that players who kneel during the anthem on the field would be fined, but they can stay in the locker room if they want to protest.

Kneeling during the national anthem became a form of protest when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began doing so in 2016 to protest police brutality. Kaepernick hasn’t been signed by an NFL team since that season.

New York Rep. Peter T. King criticized New York Jets Chairman Christopher Johnson for saying he would pay the fines of players who kneel during the anthem, CBS reported.

King asked if Johnson would support all player protests.

“Would he pay fines of players giving Nazi salutes or spew racism?” he asked on Twitter. “It’s time to say goodbye to the Jets!”

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota criticized the NFL for trying to silence players, saying he would boycott the league for its “cowardly and idiotic kneeling ban.”

The protest received even larger national attention when President Donald Trump said last year owners should “get that son of a bitch off the field” if a player protested during the anthem.

Vice President Mike Pence also joined in that criticism when he walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game in October when players took a knee.

Republican candidates have since used the anthem to show their closeness to Trump, with Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita criticizing fellow Rep. Luke Messer for waffling on his position on the controversy.

Similarly, Rep. Diane Black, who is running for governor of Tennessee, said she canceled her Tennessee Titans season tickets because of the anthem protests.

But when Kaepernick began his protests, Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who marched for voting rights in the 1960s, called for support for the quarterback.

Watch: Kids, Flags, Bizarro World and the Excremental Product of a Bull: Congressional Hits and Misses

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.