NFL team owners agreed Wednesday to a new policy regarding player conduct during the playing of the national anthem at the start of league games. 

Roger Goodell, the commissioner, speaking on behalf of the owners, said that the owners voted to fine teams if their players are on the field, or on the sidelines, and not standing during the national anthem when the upcoming season begins. Players will be allowed to stay in the locker room if they choose until the anthem is performed. Until the vote, players had previously been required to be on the field for the playing of the national anthem. 

“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” Goodell wrote in a statement. “Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed.”

The new policy states that “a club will be fined by the league if its personnel are on the field and do not stand, and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” but it doesn’t state whether other types of protests, such as raised fists or linking arms, or turning one’s back to the presentation, would be considered a show of disrespect.

The issue of a player not standing or participating during the anthem began at the start of the 2016-17 season with Colin Kaepernick, at the time the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, now an unemployed professional football player, protesting racism and police brutality. 

The protest expanded throughout the league with Kaepernick’s teammates and players from other teams and in other sports. The issue and protest further escalated last season, continuing the national debate that even the president used as a public platform in the press and through social media to further his agenda.

One Twitter post read, “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their national anthem or their country. NFL should change policy!”

In another tweet he wrote, “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the national anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

In defense of the NFL’s players that protested, Goodell stated, “It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not, and was never the case.”

The National Football League Players Association said it was not consulted in the development of this new policy. They released the following statement moments after the NFL announced the policy:

“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy.’ NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement, and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.

“The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values, and patriotism of our League.

“Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the league in court that alleges that he’s been blackballed. Another former 49er, safety Eric Reid, has also filed the same suit.