An NFL spokesman said Monday that players from the Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers would not be punished for violating a league rule that requires players to be present on the sidelines during the playing of the national anthem.
“There will be no discipline handed down this week for anyone who was not there,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said.
Those three teams skipped the pregame ritual on Sunday. The Seahawks and Titans stayed in the locker room as a form of protest, while the Steelers did not take the field as a team so players would not have to choose between making a protest statement or displaying patriotism, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said.
One Steelers player, offensive lineman and Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva, stood at the end of the tunnel during the playing of the anthem before the game in Chicago.
Lockhart was asked if there could be discipline in the future, or if the pregame sideline policy could change, and he said the league would continue to have dialogue with players.
“The real effort here is to make progress in the community on issues of inequality, and to not get distracted by political attacks or things that don’t help us make progress,” Lockhart said.
At least one player from every team engaged in some show of protest during the national anthem on Sunday, less than 48 hours after President Trump called on owners to fire players who engaged in protests. Some teams stood arm in arm, with players, coaches and owners. Other players raised a closed fist. Many players took a knee, and some, including the entire starting offensive line from the Oakland Raiders, the only all-black line in the NFL, chose to sit.
“Yesterday was an important day for the league, and we think, a good one,” Lockhart said. “A common theme was coming together in a thoughtful way, they are one team, decide things in the locker room, with coaches, with the owner, and they are united.”
The NFL began the practice of having players on the sideline during the national anthem in 2009, although some teams had observed the tradition previously.
The NBA mandates “players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the national anthem.” MLB has no uniform protocol for the national anthem and leaves it up to the clubs to set policy.