NFL anthem policy: petition asks Nike, Ford to cut ties with league

An online petition is calling for several of the NFL’s top corporate sponsors to cut ties with the league after it banned players this week from kneeling in protest during the national anthem.

The petition, filed on social activism platform Care2 and backed by its advocacy team, specifically calls on Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Bose, Ford, Hyundai and Under Armour to end their work with the NFL. All six sponsors encouraged the NFL last year, at the height of the national anthem debate, to allow players to freely express their views.

The NFL’s new policy, which received unanimous approval from its 32 owners, allows players to stay in the locker room during the national anthem if they choose, but requires any player on the field to stand at attention during the anthem. Teams are subject to fines if their players kneel or otherwise fail to show respect for the flag, and teams also have the right to fine their own players.

“This is a contradictory policy,” Rebecca Gerber, Care2’s senior director of engagement, said in a statement. “NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the ban is to ensure players show respect for the flag. But the flag represents respect for freedom, including freedom of speech. There is nothing disrespectful about NFL players using their platform to sound the alarm on problems in our country; in fact, it shows that they respect our country deeply and believe it can get better."

The Care2 petition had more than 5,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon and its backers set a goal of reaching 10,000 total signatures. The six sponsors named in Care2’s petition did not immediately respond to FOX Business’s request for comment.

The NFL enacted the policy change after months of debate around how it should respond to player protests during the national anthem. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was first to kneel during the anthem to protest social injustice during the 2016 NFL season, but the protests gained momentum last season after President Donald Trump called on the NFL to fire any player who knelt.

Trump praised the NFL on Thursday for “doing the right thing” during a taped appearance on “Fox & Friends.” Leading player advocates, including Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive end Chris Long, were critical of the policy shift. The NFL Players Association said it was not consulted before the change was enacted.

“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Personnel who choose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed. We believe today's decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it -- and on our fans who enjoy it.”