National Football League (NFL) owners will discuss a rule change that would obligate players to stand for the national anthem, the Wall Street Journal reports. Should the rule be passed, the NFL would become the second league after the NBA that forces players to stand for the anthem.
NFL players have been kneeling during the national anthem to protest what they say is police brutality. The protest was started by NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick last season but accelerated after Trump bashed football players who kneel during the national anthem at a campaign rally in early September.
Trump had urged the crowd to protest players who don't stand up for the national anthem, telling them "when people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem, the only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it's one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop." He called for all of them to be fired, reminding the public that player salaries are in the millions.
Many have blamed the protests as the catalyst for the low ratings the NFL has been suffering from. Sunday's NFL games viewership hit a season-low and ratings have dropped from 57 percent to 44 percent overall since August. In addition, a recent poll by The Winston Group showed that the NFL is now the most disliked sports league in the United States - 42 percent of people surveyed had a favorable opinion of the NFL, falling 40 points since the end of August when 73 percent said that they liked the league.
NFL owners have taken ambiguous stances on the protests. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at first supported the players, even taking a knee together with them, but then announced that he will bench any player who sits during the national anthem.
Jones' announcement was hailed by President Donald Trump, who tweeted "A big salute to Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who will BENCH players who disrespect our Flag. Stand for Anthem or sit for game!"
The protests have also spooked advertisers, some of whom have already yanked their ads from NFL games. "They’re nervous,” advertising executive Brian Cristiano told Yahoo. "Everyone is looking at the numbers, they’re looking at the ratings… they’re nervous. They’re like, ‘Are we overpaying? What are we going to do? Can we have makeups? How else are we going to get this exposure back?'”