While the NFL has released a new policy on behavior during the national anthem, the former Green Beret who spent much of the last two years at the center of the debate said he doesn’t expect the issue to fade away.
“It’s definitely not going to be the end of this,” said Nate Boyer, who reached out to then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick via an open letter shortly after the QB took a seat during the anthem in a well-publicized protest. “But [the NFL] had to do something, and this is what they came up with.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business. The owners own the team ... you’ve got to respect that.”
The policy, announced Wednesday by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, will require all players and other team personnel on the sideline to stand during the anthem but will allow those who wish to remain in the locker room to do so. If a player or team official on the sideline doesn’t stand, the league will fine the team an undisclosed amount.
Teams also may institute their own anthem policies, which may involve fining players. The NFL Players Association has taken issue with how the policy has been enacted and plans to review it for potential violations of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
Boyer, who signed as an undrafted free agent long snapper with the Seattle Seahawks prior to the 2015 season but did not make the final roster, said the NFL was “going to get attacked no matter what they decide” regarding the anthem. He praised Goodell and other league officials for reaching out to players and donating money to various social-justice causes.
His main criticism: That the policy took nearly two years to implement after Kaepernick’s actions in a 2016 preseason game kicked off debate that has included veterans groups, service members, prominent veterans and many others beyond players and owners.
“I think it’s been something that’s further divided us,” said Boyer, who has worked alongside NFL and MMA journalist Jay Glazer to create Merging Vets & Players, a program designed to bring former athletes and former service members together to address common post-career adjustment issues.
After his appearance with Kaepernick on the 49ers sideline and further national-media appearances on the topic, Boyer’s been deluged with comments from all sides of the debate. Veterans have landed on both sides of the issue, he said.
“There’s opinions all over the map from the veterans community about this issue and about every issue,” he said. “It’s important to remember, patriotism isn’t reserved for people with conservative values, and at the same time, people with liberal values, open-mindedness isn’t reserved for them. It’s a two-way street.”
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.