On Wednesday, NFL owners approved a new policy regarding the national anthem.
Not much is expected to change with the Vikings, according to head coach Mike Zimmer.
“I was proud of my team last year,” Zimmer said Wednesday following an offseason practice in Eagan. “They stood for the anthem. I think it’s important we stand for the anthem. I think it’s important we represent our country the right way. A lot of people have — I probably shouldn’t get on a tangent, right? — but a lot of people have died for that flag. That flag represents our country and what we stand for. And so, I think that’s important. I’ll stop there.”
During owner’s meetings in Atlanta this week, owners voted to enact a new policy for 2018 that requires teams and personnel on the sideline to stand for the national anthem, but players and personnel now have the option to stay in the locker room if they don’t want to stand.
With the rule tweak, the NFL also put the onus on teams to create their own individual policies. The league will fine teams, not players, if a player doesn’t stand for the national anthem. A player could then be fined by his team.
A handful of NFL players knelt or sat during the national anthem at points during the 2017 regular season, including the Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett and the 49ers’ Eric Reid. They carried on protest headlined in 2016 by Colin Kaepernick, who sat and then knelt during national anthems to protest police brutality and racial injustice in America.
Most teams in the league, like the Vikings, didn’t have a player sit or kneel during the anthem in the regular season last year.
In September, following President Donald Trump’s comments criticizing anthem protesters in the NFL, the Vikings (and several teams) took on variations of standing for the anthem without kneeling or sitting. Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf, along with general manager Rick Spielman, interlocked arms along the sideline with the majority of players prior to the Week 3 win vs. Tampa Bay.
The Vikings’ longest-tenured player, defensive end Brian Robison, said he’ll continue to “stand up for that flag,” but he doesn’t have a problem with other players who protest.
“For me, I’m going to go out there and I’m going to stand up for that flag,” said Robison, the 35-year-old Texan. “At the same time, our military has fought for those freedoms to allow those guys to have that decision. Whether we agree or disagree with what their decision is, it doesn’t matter; not part of it. That’s their freedom to do what they want to do.”
Receiver Stefon Diggs declined to discuss the NFL’s new policy allowing players to stay in the locker room for the national anthem, other than saying he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself.
“For me personally, I don’t bring how I feel about things onto a team,” Diggs said. “I’m part of an organization, a part of a team. I always keep that first in mind. As a collective unit, I like to keep things that way. I try not to do anything that’s going to bring any attention to myself at all, I try to fly under the radar. As far as any comment on it, I belong to an organization and I belong to that.”