For Pete's Sake

There is a false rumor about the national anthem in the NFL rulebook

If you search Google for the NFL rulebook, a funny thing happens.

One of the suggested searches is NFL rulebook A62 A63. Another is NFL rulebook pages a62 a63.

What is this about? There is a rumor that says the NFL rulebook has instructions for players to stand at attention during the playing of the national anthem.

In addition to the searches, this is a comment that was on The Star’s Facebook page, and there are many others like it:

“The NFL doesn’t follow their own rules. 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.”

My coworker Jason Boatright pointed this out to me, so that’s why I did a quick search on Google of the NFL rulebook. It’s easy to find, and here is a link to it.

There is no mention of the national anthem in the NFL rulebook. 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.

That’s why the league has never issued a punishment for a player who didn’t follow the recommendation.

“There is no discipline being considered for any action yesterday,” McCarthy said Monday.

Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, told The Sporting News in March that “the league didn’t discuss setting a standard protocol for all players during the pregame playing of the anthem.”

That Sporting News story said Vincent told Vic Carucci and Alex Marvez: “Frankly, the players have that right. They’re asked (to stand), but not required.”

When former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat down during the playing on the national anthem last year, the NFL issued this statement said the same thing: “Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.”

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff