Does The NFL Rulebook Require Players Stand During National Anthem?

Editorial by Patricia Garza, founder of

The short answer is no. The long answer is that it is encouraged and players could be fined for not being on the field ten minutes before the game (usually the time the national anthem takes place). However, a rumor going around on social media says the NFL Rulebook requires players to stand on the sideline. But the rule being cited comes from the NFL Game Operations Manual.

Here is the rule being shared online:

“The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.

“During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition…

“…It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”

After a quick search on Google of the NFL Rulebook you’ll find there is no mention of flag or national anthem etiquette during the national anthem. Here is a link to the NFL Rulebook.

As reported by the Kansas City Star:

…there are no pages A62 or A63, either.

Page 62 deals with a “Foul committed during passing play,” “Foul during a backward pass or fumble,” “Foul during free kick play” and “Four during scrimmage kick play.” Page 63 continues with the scrimmage kick play, and then deals with a “Dead ball foul and foul between downs.”

How about rules for before games?

Rule 17 is “Emergencies, Unfair Acts,” and Article Seven of that rule has the only mention of the word pre-game.

It has to do with a pre-game threat: “If there is deemed to be a threat of an emergency that may occur during the playing of a game (e.g., an incoming tropical storm), the starting time of such game will not be moved to an earlier time unless there is clearly sufficient time to make an orderly change.”

It appears some fans are confusing the league rulebook for the NFL Game Operations Manual, which includes nearly 200 pages of procedures and policy for regular-season games. Among the arcane details: each team must provide 600 towels and 500 pounds of ice to the visiting team.

In an email, Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s vice president of communications, shared the portion of the manual that addresses the anthem, and that language is what has been shared on social media but mistakenly attributed to the rulebook.

McCarthy stressed that passage about the national anthem is a guideline and not a requirement. The key words in the operations manual are “should” and “may” and not “must.” No player is required to stand at attention.

This is confirmed according to a report on ABC:

NFL rules say teams have to be on the field at least 10 minutes before kickoff. Normally, skipping the anthem would violate that rule. Failure to be on the field on time typically results in a fine, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said.


However, it’s being reported today that President Trump is calling for a rule to require players to stand. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but since the NFL currently recognizes these kneeling protests as protected by free speech it is unlikely to happen. While employers can impose some ethical rules, it’s a fine line when it comes to protecting individual constitutional rights and maintaining a non-partisan workplace. 

I believe it’s best to keep politics out of any workplace, including protests like the kneeling protest because all it does is upset fans and creates division and unnecessary controversy. But enforcing a rule requiring players stand could be seen as violating their first amendment rights.  In the end, I think the issue is being blown out of proportion by the media and Trump when people in Puerto Rico are suffering without power, water, food and other necessary resources to survive. 

Additionally, there was another mass shooting over the weekend and to my knowledge Trump hasn’t publicly mentioned anything about it nor the victims two days later. 

Lastly, Trump’s rhetoric against North Korea’s unstable leader does not give confidence that relations between North Korea and the US will improve. They continue to insult one another like children, as Kim Jung Un launches more missiles and makes threats of war, crossing Trump’s red line several times already.


What do you think? Should the NFL enforce or impose a rule requiring players to stand during the national anthem or when the flag is presented? Leave your thoughts in the comments.


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