COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — By now, you’ve likely seen a social media post claiming the NFL rule book requires NFL players to attend the national anthem during pregame ceremonies.
In reality, the NFL doesn’t have that requirement. In fact, it doesn’t mention the national anthem at all in its official rule book.
This is the fake excerpt that’s been circulating social media:
“The specific NFL rule pertaining to the national anthem is found on pages A62-63 of the league rulebook. It states: The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.
“During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition.
It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”
Despite looking legitimate, this isn’t a rule found anywhere in the official 2017 NFL Rule Book. It’s fake.
What’s actually on pages 62 and 63 of the rule book is information about the enforcement of fouls, including backward passes, fumbles, free kicks, dead ball fouls, etc.
So what does the NFL say about the national anthem? Nothing at all in the rule book. The words “national anthem” are not mentioned once.
NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy did give additional guidance back in August of 2016 when Colin Kaepernick first “took a knee” in protest. The statement to NBC’s Sports said “players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem.”
The closest mention in the NFL’s rule book might be the “Personal Messages” section found on page 23, article 8. That section prohibits players “from wearing, displaying, or otherwise conveying personal messages either in writing or illustration” during pregame, while on the bench or during post game interviews. However, it does not give any guidelines on how the players should present themselves during the national anthem.