NFL Rules Demand Honoring Anthem (Maybe)

Football is a game of rules. For instance if a ball carrier’s knee touches the ground, play stops at that point.

Well…the GUARDIAN’s chief legal counsel examined the NFL Football League rules and came up with a rule on pages A62-63 of the official NFL rule book: “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.”

Our counsel, John Runft, was kind enough to remind NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell of the rules. Given the national attention spawned by the remarks of President Donald Trump on social media, it appears the Prez may be right about his opinions, but for the wrong reasons.

Attorney Runft’s letter to the NFL. Ltr to NFL (09-25-17

SNOPES sees it a bit differently.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Where is that rule exactly? Not in this rule book:

    I thinks Mr. Runft got duped by the Internet:

  2. nasty, inebriated
    Sep 26, 2017, 11:18 am

    Your legal counsel is an idiot

  3. Eagle Writer
    Sep 26, 2017, 11:31 am

    Thank you for your research!

    On Sunday I took a knee and did not watch any games. I am a huge NFL fan and while distressed about my decision to alter my decades long Sunday routines, I survived. Yes, I only hurt myself and the NFL will survive, but this is a matter of principle.

    I noticed that Mrs. Eagle Writer was not unhappy with my stance…

  4. Big thanks to John Runft for his due diligence and fact-finding. I’m excited to read Mr. Goodell’s response letter.

  5. Then the rule conflicts with an individual’s first amendment rights.

    EDITOR NOTE–It’s a condition of employment. If you check the rules of employment for Boise coppers, they forego their 5th amendment rights as a condition of employment, hence the ombudsman has to wait until potential criminal charges are no longer pending before he can interview officers. Bumper stickers are “free speech,” but not on public vehicles.

  6. Speckled Hen
    Sep 26, 2017, 12:20 pm

    Knowing how attorneys love the nuance of different words, the language says “should” stand at attention, etc. That means it’s a suggestion, not compulsory. Now, the “must” be on the sidelines part would make that part compulsory for players to be there for the Anthem.

  7. “it appears the prez may be right about his opinions”

    Which opinions would those be, Guardian?

  8. Trump doesn’t get it or if he does he is trying to redirect its message. This is about “Liberty and justice for all” far more so than any football game or its rules.

    It is past time for our unbalanced justice system to be a nationwide discussion and if it takes kneeling during the national anthem to get it started, so be it; let it happen.

  9. Trust me Runft is not a idiot. Had some issues yes… but also was the lawyer for George Hansen if I remember. Mr. Guardian correct me if I am wrong but didn’t Runft go all the way to the supreme court and get Congressman Hansen conviction on ethic law violations overturned? At my age my memory might be fading. Trust me Runft is no idiot.

    EDITOR NOTE–Porc, you are correct about Runft. However, the REST of the story on Hansen is not so pretty. From Wikipedia: “In 1984 Hansen was convicted of violating the 1978 Ethics in Government Act. He had failed to disclose $334,000 in personal loans to his campaign. He was sentenced to six months in prison and fined $40,000. Appealing all the way to the US Supreme Court, his conviction was vacated and the fine returned to him.

    But by 1992, Hansen was in prison again on charges of defrauding two Idaho banks and 100 individuals in a $30 million investment scheme. He was sentenced to four years in prison.”

  10. “NFL Game Operations Manual”, not “NFL League Rulebook”. And has anyone found where to download the Game Operations?

    “Should” vs “Must” is fodder for lawyers. The rest of us view them as nearly the same.

    What are these entertainers kneeling for?
    Race? Racism died decades ago.
    Equity? How many millions do they make?
    Police? The vast majority of police encounters are non-violent. The vast majority of police forceful encounters are justified. The issues that some people have rioted over have been proven justified – the riots are over lies.

    So the kneeling is to support lies. That more than anything is why the NFL has lost all of my interest and support.

  11. Prior to 2009 players stayed in the locker room until after the anthem was played. In 2009 the DOD became an NFL advertiser. Paying the NFL millions of taxpayer dollars in the process. Part of the,arrangement was to have players on the sidelines for the anthem.

  12. Mr. Guardian… You are right about Hansen… The only worse politician from Idaho that I remember might have been Senator Glen Taylor. The one that after he was elected and moved to DC sang the song to all the reporters….”O give us a home, near the Capitol dome, with a yard for two children to play…” to the tune of home on the Range.

    Hansen did get ( with Runft help…I think) the law that made OSHA get a search warrant to do inspections. Maybe wrong there you can correct.

    Not every one is all bad.

    EDITOR NOTE–Not sure of any Hansen involvement there. A guy named BARLOW in Pocatello was the one who hired Runft to fight OSHA and win. I wrote that story for NY TIMES and OREGONIAN and came to know Runft.

  13. NFL? Runft? He writes a letter and makes news?

    Should is not a directive. What if you’re standing there and your knees are in casts.

    This stand, kneel issue is a non issue. The NFL is not the group making waves.

    EDITOR NOTE–The fact so many are talking about it, the Prez is involved, etc. make it news. The eclipse wasn’t “news.” We knew for years that it was coming and where it could be seen. The next one will look the same.

  14. Mr. Runft, “Coast Guard” is two words.

    Your letter, in my opinion, is disrespectful to the U.S. Coast Guard- since you didn’t take the time to recognize it and write it correctly.
    Your use and text of our military in that letter is more disrespectful than someone choosing not to salute the U.S. Flag.

    Your text of “U.S, Mail” is also incorrect. You make an incorrect reference to the “NFL league rulebook” Therefore, your actual statement is a lie. You are not even using correct capitalization in that title, as well as other spots in the letter. That letter is about par for Trump tweets- at least your accepting audience will not know the difference.

    Your writing skills are terrible, especially for an attorney!
    You’re fired! (or not hired as the case may be).

    EDITOR NOTE–We will post your comment, but please don’t troll on the GUARDIAN.

  15. If these NFL players and coaches (and fans) had more understanding of The Constitution, they would understand that the First Amendment applies only to personal expressions in PUBLIC places. Generally an employee surrenders some constitutional rights, as a condition of employment. (They might or might not be under an employer mandate on behavior during the pre-game flag ceremony. Another more common example is drug screening, either pre-hire or random. That seems like an “unreasonable search” if you’re not exhibiting suspicious behavior… but if you don’t like it you can work elsewhere.)

    If these NFL players and coaches had more business acumen, they would realize the folly of alienating a large majority of their fan base, no matter how righteous their cause. Let’s see what the team owners say, when revenues drop by 50%. (Or, maybe they won’t. But, attending games, watching games on TV and buying NFL merchandise are voluntary, and I’m hearing from lots of fans who say they will be walking away.)


  16. Honoring the Anthem.

    There is NOTHING that “demands” a person to “honor” our National Anthem. That is why it is called ‘honor’.

    Next time you see an audience while the Anthem is being played, please do not be so quick to to judge others.

    There are many cases where one does not salute the U.S. Flag or recognize the Anthem.

    For example, some by matter of religious principle do not salute the Flag. First Amendment- and affirmed by the Supreme Court.

    There may be someone in the audience who is not an American Citizen and therefore would not salute or “honor” the Anthem or Flag the same as a US citizen.

    Or there may be someone who is just uninformed and doesn’t know whether to do so or not.

    Or they are choosing to exercise their freedom to do nothing.

    Do what you feel is right.
    This is “the land of the free”.

    Pittsburg Steeler tackle, Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, did just that when he stepped outside the locker room to offer his respect during the Anthem this past weekend. He was not on the sideline.

    Russia fines people for mocking their Anthem; this is not Russia.

    Let’s ALL understand *proper etiquette* and then go from there.

    To call someone an SOB, or to react at all, for someone not following standard etiquette during the Anthem is childish and MORE disrespectful, of another person, than the initial action.
    Unity is better than being divisive.

    EDITOR NOTE–Amen! You don’t have to be a believer to stand while others pray at a public event. It would be rude to remain seated (taking a knee however could be taken as a positive sign) :-).

  17. Taking a knee on the NFL. And any of the other smug, pretentious companies that decide to inject politics into their brands. I’m sick of it. Politics has it’s place – in politics. Not in business.

  18. As a condition of employment? It isn’t that basic. Can the Rooneys make the Steelers say a Hail Mary before the game in the locker room? No. It is situational and you don’t check your rights when you enter employment. If there are over riding aspects, public money and bumper stickers on police cars, rights can be restricted. Standing on the sideline of a monopolized industry does not create a need for craven obedience.

    EDITOR NOTE–No arguments here. Take a look at the comment from HH, our PRO SE counsel. She makes an interesting case.

  19. On the other hand let’s look at what law Mr. Trump is breaking yet like everything else he does, no one mentions that he is doing it wrong – Trump publicly proclaims that football players who don’t stand for the national anthem should be fired … and urges the team owners to take this action.

    This puts him in direct violation of 18 U.S. Code § 227 … which reads (in part):

    (a) Whoever, being a covered government person, with the intent to influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation, an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity—
    (1) takes or withholds, or offers or threatens to take or withhold, an official act, or
    (2) influences, or offers or threatens to influence, the official act of another,
    shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than 15 years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.

    Clause (b) makes it clear that the President is one of the “covered government persons” to whom this applies.

    18 U.S. Code § 227 – Wrongfully influencing a private entity’s employment decisions by a Member of Congress or an officer or employee of the legislative or executive branch

  20. HH
    After watching the PBS Vietnam series tell me which President during the war didn’t break this law?

    PORC–I ordered in extra copies of my Vietnam book,

      DRAFTED! Vietnam at War and at Peace.

    Call the number on my DRFPHOTO.COM website for your copy.

  21. Bieter Begone
    Sep 28, 2017, 6:23 am

    Oh please. HH is making a ridiculous comment.

    The President doesn’t give up his rights to free speech when he takes office. Could he have been more subtle? Sure. But what he did wasn’t wrong.

    Is what the players doing wrong? Depends. But it sure is stupid. Alienating more than half your fan base is a recipe for disaster.

    What team does Kaepernick play for?

  22. Steve Rinehart
    Sep 28, 2017, 8:04 pm

    Why must we endure a propaganda pledge and/or flag-waving song just to watch a simple ballgame?

  23. Eagle Writer
    Sep 29, 2017, 9:46 am

    Steve, you don’t have to “endure” any of those things. Stay in the beer garden, make one last trip to the toilet, or don’t come to the stadium.

    A better question is why should those who come together for a celebration be subjected to protests by the participants? Protests against the very country and its freedoms that allow for the celebration, and the employment of the participants.

  24. “Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it….”
    ― George Bernard Shaw

    Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.– Samuel Johnson

    One of the great attractions of patriotism–it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat, Bully and cheat, what’s more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous. – Aldous Huxley

    At the bottom of all patriotism is war: that is why I am no patriot. – Jules Renard

    Treason is in the air around us everywhere. It goes by the name of patriotism. – Thomas Corwin

  25. How does the playing of the national anthem automatically tie in to respect for the military? The two are distinct. When I stand for the SSB I am personally giving thought for all of the US and the great nation that it is. Runft ties the two to create a theme that is not real or relevant. Typical chest beating pseudo patriotism.

  26. As a young cub scout I had the honor of carrying the American Flag in the Dairy Days Parade in Meridian in early 1970’s. I will never forget the countless elderly men who labored to get out of their lawn chairs to stand straight and salute the nations flag as it went by. Many had not only served but has lost brothers and friends who had given their lives allow then them the freedom to stand and salute.

    On another occasion as I was able to tour George Washington’s home at Mt Vernon. A great feeling came over me as I saw the flag behind his desk. To this day I have no doubt that he had great reverence for both the flag and the this great land it represents.

    About two years ago a very close friend who flew in B-17’s and B-24’s over Germany passed away.
    It took 10 years of knowing him for him to share with me the memory of waiting to take off on a runway in England with 100 other B-17’s. As he sat in that airplane he knew that of the 100 planes only 60 would return. That day 300 would die and they knew it. He and every other airman were prepared to give their lives that day and every other day they took off.

    As I see the flag I stand. As I see the flag or hear the anthem of this great nations I place my hand over my heart in tribute to those who have given everything to allow me the freedom to go out each day and do whatever I please in this free land.

    Every time I see the flag I feel the pride of those from the founding fathers to the young Cub Scouts who are learning about the flag and the country today from my son who serves as their den leader.

    I thank God daily for all those who have sacrificed to create, build and maintain this great land. May we forget ourselves and think only of what others have done and sacrificed for us for us. And if nothing else thank them by standing and saluting the flag they fought for and gave so much to defend.

  27. John Runft and the Guardian have been victims of “Fake News”, udoubtedly placed in social media by the Kremlin.

    There is NO REFERENCE TO THE NATIONAL ANTHEM in the NFL rules. Fact checking would have verified that NFL players are not required to be on the field during the National Anthem.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: