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Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law led a coalition of 28 civil rights groups to denounce NFL’s national anthem rule

Twenty-eight civil rights groups, including the NAACP and ACLU teamed up to condemn the NFL’s new protest policy.

NFL: New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

A coalition of prominent civil rights groups has joined forces to condemn the NFL’s new rule regarding player protests during the national anthem.

Organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union to the Center for Constitutional Rights to the NAACP banded together to express their objection toward the new league policy that requires every player on the field to stand for the pregame rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner”. The rule effectively squashes efforts by players like Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, who took a knee during the anthem to spotlight to the issues of police brutality and racial injustice.

The NFL enacted its controversial rule May 24, striking a compromise between owners and the league’s front office that gives teams the choice to remain in the locker room for the pregame ceremony — but also gives the league the authority to fine teams if players “do not show respect” during the anthem. The rule also gives teams the power to punish players who violate the rule.

It’s a controversial ruling that’s been lauded by some and criticized by others. Tuesday’s letter falls firmly in the latter category.

The group published its response, signed by the leaders of 28 different organizations, accusing the league of repressing “peaceful, non-disruptive protest of police violence against unarmed African Americans and other people of color.”

The group also took aim at the loudest voice speaking up against these protests — President Donald Trump.

President Trump, responding to the NFL’s new rule, said to those who take a knee, “[Y]ou shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” This racebaiting attempt to alienate people of color is repugnant to America’s core values. Athletes who choose to kneel during the national anthem to peacefully protest police violence embody the best patriotic ideals of our nation. Protesters striving to create a more inclusive democracy define the history of this country; there is no better way to honor our national symbols than to fight for equal justice for all.

Compelling players to stand for the national anthem erodes the values that the flag represents and tells the world that the NFL does not care about racial justice. We urge you to reconsider your position.

The coalition pointed to other famous athletes of color who used their respective sports to raise awareness of social issues as examples of the messages the league risks silencing with its new rule.

“In no uncertain terms, the NFL is standing on the wrong side of history with its repressive and racially-charged anthem rule. Just like generations of nonviolent civil rights activists before them, these players may be shuttered into a locker room but they will not be silenced,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in a news release distributed Tuesday.

“There is a long history of athletes — from Jesse Owens to Jackie Robinson to Muhammad Ali to Colin Kaepernick — using the field or the arena to challenge barriers to racial justice. The NFL claims to be built on grit and competition but lacks the constitution to stomach a call for basic equality and fairness. We urge Commissioner Goodell to repeal this policy immediately.”

So far, the NFL has given no indication that they’ll change the rule.