Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers abstaining from anthem policy vote speaks volumes to players like Richard Sherman

May 23, 2018 at 3:29 PM--

The National Football League adopted a new policy on Wednesday morning that will require team personnel and players to stand during the national anthem. Those who do not wish to do so may remain in the team's locker room or a similar location off of the field until the anthem is complete.

What will happen if players choose to be on the field with their teammates but not stand during the anthem? The NFL could fine the team and personnel or players might face discipline from the league.

Commissioner Roger Goodell attempted to imply that there was a sense of unity in the league's decision to move forward with the new policy.

"[The new policy] was unanimously adopted by the clubs," Goodell said on Wednesday.

The policy, however, does empower each NFL team to determine its own anthem policy and decide whether or not to discipline a player who protests. Team owners like Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals have made their stance on the issue clear – they want players to stand during the national anthem. San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York has always been a strong vocal proponent of players' rights when it comes to peaceful protests.

York stated on Wednesday that the 49ers abstained from the morning's vote on the policy because he wants to hear more from the players on the matter. He went as far as to say that the team may halt concession sales at Levi's Stadium if the league is so worried about showing respect during the national anthem.

"I don't think that we should profit during the national anthem if we're going to ask people to be respectful," York told ESPN. "I think that's something that we should do to be respectful. That's the tip of the iceberg. We want to make sure that we have an all-encompassing sort of solution to how we look at this and not point the finger at one group or another."

York's support of the players speaks volumes to at least one of them – cornerback Richard Sherman.

"It carries a lot of weight, and we respect the hell out of him for it," Sherman told Jim Trotter of NFL Media.

York and the 49ers aren't the only ones who might not be "all in" on the new policy. New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson told Newsday that his players are free to take a knee or perform some other form of protest during the national anthem without having to worry about repercussions from the team. He will bear any fines issued by the league.

"I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players," said Johnson. "Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we're all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines. I don't want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won't. There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that's just something I'll have to bear."

Former 49ers safety Eric Reid was among the most vocal protesters on the team last season. He remains a free agent. Aside from the more than 20 players who knelt during Weeks 4 and 5 of the 2017 season, there are still several players on the team who protested. They are linebacker Eli Harold, wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, cornerback K'Waun Williams, safety Adrian Colbert, defensive lineman Arik Armstead, and linebackers Reuben Foster and Dekoda Watson.

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