VERIFY: Are NFL football players required to stand for the National Anthem?

Does the heavily-cited rule actually exist? We checked.

Across the web, people are sharing posts about a so-called “rule” pertaining to the National Anthem at National Football League games. The post details the requirements for NFL players to be on the field and how they should behave while the Star Spangled Banner is played.

Social media users are posting the following text and asking readers to copy and paste:

“The specific rule pertaining to the national anthem is found on pages A62-63 of the NFL League Rulebook. It states: '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.'”

To verify this content, we first looked at the NFL's 2017 Official Playing Rules. Nowhere in the 2017 rule book does the NFL mention the National Anthem. Pages 62 and 63 contain information on the enforcement of fouls.

The only section of the Official Playing Rules that could be pertinent to the issue would be Article 8 under Section 4, “EQUIPMENT, UNIFORMS, PLAYER APPEARANCE.” The rule states that:

“Throughout the period on game-day that a player is visible to the stadium and television audience (including in pregame warm-ups, in the bench area, and during postgame interviews in the locker room or on the field), players are prohibited from wearing, displaying, or otherwise conveying personal messages either in writing or illustration, unless such message has been approved in advance by the League office. Items to celebrate anniversaries or memorable events, or to honor or commemorate individuals, such as helmet decals, and arm bands and jersey patches on players’ uniforms, are prohibited unless approved in advance by the League office. All such items approved by the League office, if any, must relate to team or League events or personages. The League will not grant permission for any club or player to wear, display, or otherwise convey messages, through helmet decals, arm bands, jersey patches, or other items affixed to game uniforms or equipment, which relate to political activities or causes, other non-football events, causes or campaigns, or charitable causes or campaigns. Further, any such approved items must be modest in size, tasteful, non-commercial, and noncontroversial; must not be worn for more than one football season; and if approved for use by a specific team, must not be worn by players on other teams in the League.”

That section does not appear to address the substance of this protest.

Also, on page 12 of the playing rules, it does say that players have to appear on the field least 10 minutes before kickoff. That is a reference to warmup time which usually happens well before that. 

There's also something called the "Game Operations Manual." It is considered a bible for the NFL and covers almost every facet of preparation and playing of games.

In that document, the Anthem is mentioned. In highlights provided by the NFL, however, a detailed timeline only says the Anthem will begin five minutes before the game and can last no longer than two minutes.

The 13News Now Verify team has been working to get a full copy of the operations manual to see where else the National Anthem might be mentioned. We are still waiting to hear back from the league and the players' association.

Last year, back when this issue came into the spotlight with Colin Kaepernick, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy issued a statement. "Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the National Anthem," McCarthy said.

As a result our verify team counts the rule book claim as FALSE

*Interesting fact: The National Basketball Association does have an official rule pertaining to the National Anthem, and in 1996 suspended Denver Nuggets lead scorer Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf over his refusal to stand.

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