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NFL owners: All players must stand for national anthem, or else

Photo: A.R. Shaw

Former NFL quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick

ATLANTA — Colin Kaepernick remains one of the most influential and divisive figures in the National Football League — even though the exiled quarterback has not been in an NFL uniform for more than two years.

The residue of Kaepernick’s singular powerful protest, that rocked the sport and this nation like a quake, still reverberates today as the NFL owners unanimously voted to enact a new national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

The policy subjects teams to a fine if a player or any other team personnel do not show respect for the anthem. This includes any attempt to sit or kneel while the anthem is performed as dozens of players have done during the past two seasons. Those teams will also have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction.

The new NFL policy, however, gives the players the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer.

“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said 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.

“We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our fans who enjoy it,” he said in a press conference in the ritzy Buckhead section of Atlanta.

A vote took place at the conclusion of the league’s spring meetings and was approved by all 32 owners. The owners, however, are exempt from exibiting political leanings, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner reportedly gave and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Donald Trump.

The requirement that all players be on the field during the playing of the national anthem will be removed from the league’s game operations manual, allowing for those who wish not to stand to remain in the locker room or “a similar location off the field” until the playing of the national anthem is complete.

Goodell said the NFL is “dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.”

Take a look at the policy below as drawn up by the NFL: