NFL Just Quietly Changed Its Ruling on the National Anthem and It's a Head-Turner

| OCT 10, 2017 | 6:36 PM

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After a month of record numbers of National Football League national anthem protests, ticket sales are down, ratings have plummeted, and fans have begun boycotting the league. Some NFL teams have implemented new policies requiring their players to stand, while others have allowed their players to continue voicing their opinions during the anthem.

But now, it appears the NFL has changed several lines in its operations manual for the national anthem, which could be an attempt to save its business that's on a downward spiral. The league fed ESPN's Chris Mortensen small segments of the new policies:

Mortensen clarified, saying that when he spoke with Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner, he said the policy itself was not actually new, but President Donald Trump had reminded him about the policy:

But now, Deadspin has uncovered what the game operations policy was back in 2014, and a change has clearly been made recently. The policy in 2014 reads that failure to be on the field at the start of the national anthem “may result in disciplinary action from the League office.” But now, the policy reads that failure to be on the field "will result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violation of the above, including first offenses.”

So, they've added more punishment in the new game operations policy and completely removed disciplinary action coming form the league office. Now the question is whether it will be enforced.

In a memo released Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appears to have given in to the pressure from fans. It reads in part:

“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”

It will be interesting to see what happens with protests in the upcoming games.