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Groups against anthem policy: ‘NFL does not care about racial justice’

NFL owners approved a new policy aimed at addressing the firestorm over national anthem protests, permitting players to stay in the locker room during the "The Star-Spangled Banner" but requiring them to stand if they come to the field. The decision was announced Wednesday, May 23, 2018, by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the league's spring meeting in Atlanta. | Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Less than one month after the NFL unveiled its new national anthem policy, which would punish players and team personnel who decide to take a knee during the anthem, several national civil rights groups sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell demanding that the NFL reverse course.

In a letter addressed to Goodell, the groups defended the players’ right to protest police violence against African Americans and other people of color, according to USA Today.

“This policy represses peaceful, non-disruptive protest of police violence against unarmed African Americans and other people of color,” the groups wrote in a letter shared with USA Today. “It is disappointing that a league built on grit and competition lacks the constitution to stomach a call for basic equality and fairness.”

The group also said that the league’s decision-making “tells the world that the NFL does not care about racial justice,” according to USA Today.

“The recent decision to mandate the silence of players wishing to demonstrate for civil rights is even more appalling against the backdrop of the glaring racial disparities in the NFL,” the letter reads.

After being under fire — most notably by President Donald Trump — for allowing players to silently take a knee or sit during the national anthem to protest police violence, the NFL decided to mandate what players and team personnel can and can’t do during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Last month, Goodell announced at the NFL’s spring meeting in Atlanta a new anthem policy that requires players and team personnel to either stand for the anthem or wait in the locker room until the song is finished. Those who do not oblige will be slapped with a fine from the league. NFL owners unanimously agreed on the new rule.

Bears chairman George McCaskey told reporters two weeks ago that the policy “isn’t perfect,” but in the end, he supports the league’s new national anthem policy.

“There is no easy answer to the anthem issue,” McCaskey said. “No one is entirely right, nor entirely wrong. The policy change enacted a couple of weeks ago by NFL teams, including the Bears, isn’t perfect. But we think it will return the anthem to what it should be — a unifying force — while providing an option to those players and other team personnel who choose not to stand.”

Trump has been outspoken against the protests that take place during the anthem. He has often called them “unpatriotic” and said they’re disrespectful to the flag and military. He uninvited the Philadelphia Eagles to the White House after several players said they would boycott the visit and not attend.

The anthem protests have been quiet gestures stemming from Colin Kaepernick’s protest in 2016. The former 49ers quarterback took a knee to protest against police violence and social injustice, specifically against African-Americans and people of color.