The San Francisco 49ers have been fairly supportive of Colin Kaepernick’s first-amendment rights throughout the preseason, but it’ll be interesting to see if they change their tune once the regular season starts – or as Kaepernick’s protest continues to gain steam. There is no bylaw in the NFL mandating that players stand for the national anthem, but could the 49ers fine Kaepernick or reprimand him for not doing so?
“Let me start by just noting that it’s been my sense from the beginning that the 49ers have done a tremendous job managing this situation in the locker room, with the team, with the organization, with the community, with business partners – I think they’ve done a sensational job,” former NFL executive and current CBS Sports Network analyst Amy Trask said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “And no, fines in the NFL are collectively bargained. There are some team fines. I do not believe this is a sort of instance where it is appropriate or allowable for a team to fine a player unless that is a fine that would have been set forth and negotiated ahead of time. Nor do I think they should, by the way. But to answer your question, it’s not a rule in the NFL, as it is in some league, that players do participate in the anthem.
Former NBA player Chris Jackson, who changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, caused quite a controversy in the mid-1990s when he refused to stand for the flag, which he viewed as a symbol of oppression. He was fined and suspended but ultimately reached a compromise with the league, which allowed him to look downward and recite an Islamic prayer during the anthem.
In any event, Trask doesn’t see the NFL punishing Kaepernick for exercising his rights as an American citizen.
“I think it would be the wrong thing to do for many reasons,” she said. “Putting aside the sort of societal and free-speech issues from a legal standpoint, I think that it would be very troubling for a team to do that. There are rules in other leagues. There are not in the NFL. It was about 20 or 25 years into my career before it was actually a rule that teams had to be on the field for the anthem. Now certainly many, many teams were on the field for the anthem, but it was left to the discretion of the team and that didn’t become a rule until roughly 2009.”