After NFL teams or players stayed in the locker room, knelt, sat or linked arms during the national anthem before games Sunday, people want to know what the NFL rules say.
Are the players required to stand on the field during the national anthem? What does the NFL rule book say?
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On social media, many people have been cutting and pasting the following excerpt:
Pages 62 and 63 make no mention of the national anthem and instead go over the enforcement of fouls.
There is one section that is open for interpretation though. In rule 5 - Players, under section 4, Equipment, Uniforms and Player Appearance, article 8 it states that:
When then-49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick first started taking a knee during the anthem in 2016, the NFL later issued a statement saying, "Players are encouraged, but not required, to stand during the playing of the National Anthem."
And over the weekend, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told Sports Illustrated's Peter King he was proud of the league's response to President Trump's comments.
“The way we reacted today, and this weekend, made me proud,” Goodell said. “I’m proud of our league," Goodell told King.
While the NFL doesn’t require you stand when the anthem is played, the federal government has a different take.
Here’s a quick look at what the United States Code says about how we should be conducting ourselves in the presence of the country’s flag and at the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Are American citizens required to stand during the National Anthem?
According to Title 36 (section 171) of the United States Code, “During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in (military) uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there.”
The question, of course, is whether “should” in the first sentence means “must” or “shall.”
So does it, and what’s the penalty if I don’t stand?
Section 171 does not specify nor impose penalties for violating the section of the code. Most interpretations refer to how the flag is treated, not specifically anything about the National Anthem. According to a Congressional Research Service report to Congress in 2008, “The Flag Code is a codification of customs and rules established for the use of certain civilians and civilian groups. No penalty or punishment is specified in the Flag Code for display of the flag of the United States in a manner other than as suggested. Cases ... have concluded that the Flag Code does not proscribe conduct, but is merely declaratory and advisory”
(A side note: In Massachusetts, singing the National Anthem, "other than as a whole and separate composition or number, without embellishment or addition … or, as dance music, as an exit march or as a part of a medley of any kind, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.")
How long has this been the law?
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