The NFL could make a change to its national anthem policy as soon as next week, and two Detroit Lions players said Wednesday that they don’t have a good solution for protests that riled some fans and put owners on edge last season.
“Obviously, that’s a little bit of a touchy subject,” guard T.J. Lang said at the team’s annual Taste of the Lions event Wednesday. “I’m always going to stand for the national anthem, that’s just me. I can’t really speak on anybody else. I understand the reasons why some guys choose not to and that’s fine. But that’s really above my pay grade. Whatever they decide to do, really none of my business so I guess I’m going to keep standing.”
NFL owners did not formally discuss the national anthem policy at the league’s annual meeting in March, but the topic is expected to come up at the spring meeting in Atlanta next week.
Currently, the league’s playing manual dictates that players should be on the field during the anthem, but does not require them to stand.
Hundreds of NFL players took a knee during the singing of the anthem last fall to protest comments made by President Donald Trump. The protests waned as last season wore on, though two prominent players – Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid – remain out of jobs in part because of their decision to kneel.
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Lions president Rod Wood said in March that he’d like to see a league-wide policy in place defining what players can and cannot do during the anthem.
“I think some of the things that I got uncomfortable with last year was trying to manage it at the team level and do it 32 different ways after the Trump incident that got everybody kind of fired up about it,” Wood said. “I really think that we need to kind of step back, like everything else we do, and kind of do it at the league level, whatever that is, and get it resolved and move on.”
Sept. 24, 2017: Lions players link arms and kneel during the national anthem before the game against the Falcons at Ford Field. The Lions lost, 30-26. (Photo: Duane Burleson, AP)
Other suggestions include requiring players to stand, which some hard-line owners like the Houston Texans’ Bob McNair seem in favor of, leaving players in the locker room for the playing of the anthem, or a mix of the two in which players can stay in the locker room for the anthem but must stand if they choose to be on the field.
Last year, Lions owner Martha Ford asked players not to kneel during the playing of the anthem days after the initial protest, and in exchange promised to donate both money and her name to issues at the heart of player protests.
Wood, in March, said Ford donated “a significant amount” of money to three causes, but declined to specify the dollar figure.
The Lions took six players in this year’s NFL draft. Free Press sports writer Ryan Ford takes a quick look at the Class of 2018.
“I think you kind of understand all sides of the argument, people that support it, people that are against it. How it can be seen as offensive towards some people,” Lang said. “Also, understand the other side of the argument, too. But whatever it is, I think it’s ultimately going to be a player’s choice and I think we’re starting to find out that not a lot of owners like that. So you obviously got to do what’s right for business, too.”
Linebacker Jarrad Davis declined comment on whether the league should adopt a uniform anthem policy, but said he’s willing to follow whatever rule owners put in place.
“I don’t know what to say, man,” Davis said. “It’s been happening a certain way for so long and why change it up? But I know a lot of guys are going to do what they do to express themselves. At the end of the day I love this country, I love being here and I love playing ball. So whatever they choose to do, we’re going to follow the rules and go about it the way we’ve been doing it for so long.”
Patricia at Taste
Lions coach Matt Patricia attended Wednesday’s event, but was in a VIP area that was off limits to reporters.
Patricia, who last week defended himself against 22-year-old allegations that he sexually assaulted a college coed on a spring break trip to Texas, spent the evening mingling with fans in an a part of the Ford Field concourse that was shielded from view.
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The Lions kept former coaches Jim Schwartz and Jim Caldwell in VIP areas during previous versions of the event.
“Honestly, once Coach Patricia came in and put that Lion on his chest like everybody else, he was one of us,” Davis said. “So we’ve got his back in everything that he goes through, and we expect the same from him. He comes to work every single day to get better and that’s what we do, too. It’s a team sport, and like I said, once he put that Lion on, he’s family.”
Lions safety Glover Quin remains away from the team dealing with family obligations this spring, but Quin has indicated to the team that he will return for June’s mandatory minicamp. … More than 2,000 people attended Wednesday’s event at Ford Field. The Lions said they expect to raise nearly $120,000 from the night, money that will benefit Eastern Market’s community outreach programs.
Contact Dave Birkett: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Download our Lions Xtra app for free on Apple and Android!