Vice President Mike Pence cheered the NFL’s decision Wednesday to ban on-field protests during the national anthem with one word: “#Winning.”
He tweeted a headline, “NFL requires players on field to stand for anthem,” and added #Winning and an American flag shortly after the announcement at the NFL spring owners’ meeting in Atlanta.
The league’s policy change came as a victory for Mr. Trump, who whipped up national opposition to the take-a-knee protests last year, placing the league in a no-win situation between alienating either its protesting players or a vocal segment of its fan base.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement it was “unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that players were unpatriotic. This was never the case.”
At the same time, he said that all players “shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem” during the 2018 NFL season, which kicks off in September, or remain in the locker room until the anthem is finished.
Fewer than 20 players continued to kneel or sit for the anthem by the end of the 2017 regular season, and no players refused to stand during the post-season.
The NFL saw its ratings decline by 9.7 percent from the previous season amid fan outrage over the protests as well as boycotts by supporters of free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who led the 2016 take-a-knee protests but sat out the 2017 season after failing to secure a contract.
He has filed a grievance against the NFL citing collusion among the owners to prevent him from playing.
Mr. Kaepernick has yet to respond to the NFL’s decision, although he retweeted a post from his attorney Mark Geragos that simply said #nflcollusion.