The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys have kicked off, and it is not entirely shocking that prior to kickoff, at least one player offered a sign of protest during the National Anthem. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin raised his right fist in the air. Eli Harold, who took a knee last year, chose to stand for the Anthem.
In May, NFL owners approved a new policy that say any personnel (players, coaches, other employees) on the field during the Anthem had to stand and show respect. Personnel could choose to stay in the locker room to not be out for the Anthem, but any sign of protest would result in the league fining the team. The team could in turn punish the player.
The NFLPA filed a grievance and has since agreed to meet with the NFL to figure out a compromise on the new policy. In the meantime, the policy has been shelved and players can protest or not protest as they see fit. Some teams (the Dallas Cowboys) have said their players will stand regardless of the policy, but others are open to players expressing themselves.
All of this is just another example of the NFL struggling to get out of its own way. The protests during the Anthem had decreased in volume over the course of last season and the league could have chosen to simple ignore it. But, that’s not the NFL’s way, and so they find themselves back in the thick of it.