Though the NFL said earlier this month that it was considering implementing a rule that would force players to stand during the national anthem, it was apparently never all that close to making it a reality.
As part of their in-depth look inside last week’s meeting between NFL players and owner, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta revealed that just a handful of the owners expressed support for such a rule.
An unofficial count had only nine owners in favor of a mandate, though the reasons for the opposition varied: Some owners had tired of [Cowboys owner Jerry] Jones always commandeering such meetings; some were jealous of his power and eager to see him go down; some saw the players-must-stand mandate as bad policy to invoke in the middle of the season; some owners were angry with Jones' hard-line public stance on kneeling, feeling that it had backed them all into a corner. "The majority of owners understand this is important to the players and want to be supportive, even if they don't exactly know how to be supportive," one owner says.
Several NFL owners—including Martha Ford of the Lions, the Giants’ John Mara and Washington’s Dan Snyder—have told their teams that they prefer the players not to kneel, though Jones has been the only owner to say publicly that he would bench players who do anything he deems “disrespectful to the flag.”
The NFL already has a passage in its game operations manual that says players “should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand and refrain from talking” during the anthem but it is merely a suggestion. Players can only be punished for failing to be on the field during the playing of the anthem.