Whether it’s kneeling, standing, saluting, sitting, locking arms, or staying in the locker room, the American public is still very much concerned with what NFL players do during the pregame national anthem.
Facing dismal TV ratings and pressure from President Donald Trump, the NFL in May said it was changing its policy to require players to stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner” if they were on the field when it played before a game. Players could opt to stay in the locker room, but not sit out the anthem. The players’ union balked, though, and the NFL put the policy on hold in July, where it remained as football season started.
Nike managed to capitalize on renewed public furor over the issue with an ad campaign portraying Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback credited with starting the movement, as something of a folk hero.
ESPN reported in late November that NFL TV ratings were up 5 percent this season, though the kneeling controversy likely didn’t affect viewership one way or the other. Kevin Seifert of ESPN theorized another reason more people were watching: The play has been more exciting this year. The NFL is in the middle of “the most prolific stretch of offensive football in the league's history. Its total of 8,502 points and 980 touchdowns are the league's highest total through 12 weeks of any season,” he wrote. —L.L.