NFL owners could change anthem policy to keep protesters off field

The NFL could avoid the controversy surrounding players’ national anthem protests by physically separating the kneelers from the song, a policy change owners reportedly are considering for next season.

With most NFL executives at odds with players who have chosen to kneel during the “Star Spangled Banner” and continue Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racial injustice in America, there is a good chance they would revert to the old policy that would keep players in the locker room while the song is being played, Tuesday.

The newspaper cited a handful of anonymous insiders who agreed that, although no explicit conversations about making the change had taken place, the majority of owners would support removing teams from the field during the pregame ceremony if players continue to protest the anthem this season.

Nearly two months after players on every team during that week’s games, just six players . Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon and Dolphins players Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas continued kneeling, while Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters remained in the tunnel and Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat during the song. Lynch, in particular, on Monday for sitting during the “Star Spangled Banner” and then standing during the Mexican national anthem, which was played before the Raiders lost to the Patriots in Mexico City.

Olivier Vernon kneels before the Giants-Seahawks game Oct. 22.Robert Sabo

NFL owners didn’t go so far as to require players to stand for the anthem, even though , commissioner Roger Goodell declared after an owners meeting in October. The league reportedly wasn’t willing to make a policy change in the middle of the season, but would be more likely to do so at season’s end.

The decision could come as early as the annual league meeting in March, the Washington Post reported.

The NFL’s current policy on the national anthem has been in effect since 2009, requiring teams to be on the sideline and encouraging them to stand while the song is played. No player that has kneeled or hid from view during the anthem this season has been punished or fined by the league.

Trump has been one of the loudest opponents of player protests, calling on the league to fire kneelers and consistently equating the league’s declining ratings with the protests.