NFL players and league personnel reacted Wednesday to the NFL owners’ vote on a new national anthem policy.
The policy, which was announced Wednesday, removes a requirement for players to be on the field for the anthem, and gives players the option to stay in the locker room.
Teams will be fined for any personnel that “do not show proper respect for the flag and Anthem” on the sidelines.
The debate around the national anthem started in August 2016 when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the anthem as a means of protesting racial inequality and police brutality.
Kaepernick has not played since that season and filed a grievance against the NFL that owners colluded to keep him off the field because of his stance.
Several other NFL players, as well as numerous other athletes across America, ultimately joined him. The protests grew during the 2017 season after President Donald Trump criticized NFL players who chose to follow suit. Trump said owners should “fire” NFL players who protest the anthem and referred to them as “son[s] of b——“. Players responded by protesting en masse.
Here’s what some had to say after the Wednesday vote:
Arizona Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea
”Either it’s going to be a team thing and everybody stays in the locker room or everybody goes out and stands,” Bethea said. ”But I think the fine thing is kind of overboard. I really do think fining players for really expressing what they believe, I think that’s kind of overboard.
”It’s a club policy so if the club supports the guys to do as they wish, then that’s fine, too. If the club decides everybody stays in the locker room, that’s a decision every team has to make.”
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott
”I’ll be out there standing.”
He added: ”I’m sure we all know what (owner) Jerry (Jones) said. His statement was last year, and I don’t see that changing.”
Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer
“I was proud of my team last year. They stood for the anthem. I think it’s important that we stand for the anthem. I think it’s important that we represent our country the right way, the flag the right way. I probably shouldn’t get on a tangent, right? But a lot of people have died for that flag, and that flag represents our country and what we stand for. I think that’s important. I’ll stop there.”
Cleveland Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor
Taylor said that ”to make a decision that strong, you would hope the players have input on it but obviously not.”
Taylor added that ”it’s what we have to deal with as players, good or bad. But at the end of the day, they call the shots and make their rules and that’s what we have to abide by.”
Chicago Bears linebacker Sam Acho
“Of course, somebody who is standing on the side of the union is going to say yes and people who didn’t give the union a say — the owners — are going to say no. And so, what I do think is, I think we’re in a really good place, as a team, honestly as a country. Because we’re at this point, almost like a point of contrition, right? What do you do now?”
Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe
”That’s probably the best way to do it. The NBA’s been doing it for 20 years and they haven’t had an issue.”
Pittsburgh Steelers guard Ramon Foster
“If the team says, ‘This is what we’re doing,’ and ownership (does too), you either deal with it or you’re probably going to get cut. You can fight the resistance on that one but, same as we can’t smoke marijuana because it’s illegal in certain states, it’s the same issue.”
“You have to adhere to the rules and if not, they’ll find a way to get you up out of there.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.