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The Buffalo News (New York)
The owners of National Football League teams agreed on Wednesday to a new policy for player conduct during the playing of the national anthem, an issue escalated last season into a national debate that involved President Trump.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said that owners voted to fine teams if their players are on the field or sidelines but do not stand during the national anthem, though players will be allowed to stay in the locker room if they choose. Players had previously been required to be on the field for the anthem.
The new policy was adopted at the league's spring meeting in Atlanta without involvement from the players' union. It is unclear how players will respond to the new rules.
The San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling for the anthem in the 2016 season to protest racism and police brutality. He was soon joined by several teammates and dozens of other players around the NFL, continuing into last season.
While some fans applauded the protests, many others were critical, saying the players were disrespecting the country.
The protests were also discomfiting to largely conservative NFL owners. Kaepernick has filed a grievance saying he was blackballed by league owners; no team offered him a job after he left the 49ers.
The goal, in Kim Pegula's view, was to try to find a compromise. The Bills' co-owner believes the NFL achieved as much with the new policy put in place.
"One of the things that we wanted was a consensus from the ownership group on a policy going forward," Pegula told The Buffalo News. "But we know that there's no exact right answer to this. This is a very delicate situation, a very personal situation to many people. So coming out with a policy that allows and gives the freedom and the choice to our players to sit in the locker room but still recognizes the importance that Terry and I feel, as well as the league, that standing for the anthem and showing the respect of the flag is embodied in the kind of character that we want as a league and as a team. So I think it was a great compromise to get that done.
"And I know from our situation, we will not stop doing some of the programs that we put in place last year after talking to our players. I always talk about how we have a better sense of communication. I addressed the whole team last year about the situation. We've had internal talks among our staff and our teams and we've put in place a lot of programs. "
Pegula also pointed out that the NFL has a matching fund grant up to $500,000 per team to address issues the club and its players wish to highlight.
"All these things I think are good ways to show not only our fans and our players that there's issues we understand, that there's issues out there and we want to make sure that we're understanding of them and allowing them the freedom to be people as well as players for us," Pegula said. "I thought it was a great compromise and will allow the players to have that choice."
News Sports Reporter Vic Carucci contributed to this report.
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