The National Football League (NFL) announced a new policy that will fine teams an undetermined amount if players on the field fail to stand during the national anthem.
Some NFL players chose to kneel during the anthem last year to protest police shootings of unarmed black men, stirring a controversy after President Donald Trump criticised those taking part as being unpatriotic.
The new policy does not require players be present during the anthem, allowing those who wish to protest and not attend the ceremonial act to remain in the locker room.
Players said they were not consulted and threatened to challenge the policy in the courts. A statement by the NFL Players Association said its athletes had shown ample patriotism by way of their social activism and community support initiatives.
“The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership … about the principles, values and patriotism of our league,” said the association in a statement.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said owners unanimously agreed to the new provision, with the exception of Jed York of the San Francisco 49ers who abstained.
Colin Kaepernick, who played for the San Francisco 49ers, began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest against police brutality against black people.
He has been without a team since the 2017 season in what many critics say is a politically inspired decision.
New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson said he supported the measure out of obligation to the membership, but said players can take a knee or perform another type of protest without fear of repercussion from the team. He will pay their fines.
“If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organisation, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players,” Johnson said.