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Bucs union rep Ali Marpet questions legality of the NFL’s new anthem policy

The third-year offensive lineman said in addition to the policy being too vague, he questions the league's reason for changing it.
Bucs wide receivers Mike Evans (13) and DeSean Jackson (11) kneel during the national anthem before a game against the Minnesota Vikings in September at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times ]
Bucs wide receivers Mike Evans (13) and DeSean Jackson (11) kneel during the national anthem before a game against the Minnesota Vikings in September at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times ]
Published May 24, 2018
Updated May 24, 2018

Bucs offensive lineman Ali Marpet questioned the legality of the NFL's new  policy that requires players to stand for the national anthem if they are on the field during the performance but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer.

Marpet, who is the Bucs' representative for the NFL Players' Association, said Thursday he also is uncertain why the league's owners chose to revisit the issue at their meetings in Atlanta this week.

"I think it's an interesting move, considering that they made a stance earlier and they changed it,'' Marpet said. "That seems a little bit odd. There's a little bit of question regarding the legality of it, I think, regarding worker's rights. So the way it's structured right now, the NFL would fine the clubs and it's up to the clubs whether or not to fine players. From my understanding, it's questionable if a team or the NFL could legally fine a player for protesting.''

Under the new policy, NFL teams can place a fine on a player or any other team personnel who does not show respect for the anthem. While the rule is broad, it includes an attempt to sit or kneel as a form of protest as disrespectful. Last season, receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans took a knee during the anthem before the Bucs game at Minnesota.

"I'm not sure what they envision,'' Marpet said. "They probably need to clarify their position. My understanding is very vague, so maybe I need to get a better understanding of it. Right now, it seems a little vague to me.

"So again, it just seems like a bizarre move to change it this late in the game. I wonder what changed it in their minds. The players are more, I would say, they're more confused by the move than anything.''

Marpet also disagreed with the statement by President Donald Trump that players who don't stand for the anthem "shouldn't be in the country."

"I would take the stance that everyone has the right to protest,'' Marpet said. "Right or wrong, whether I agree with it or not, I think in this country everyone has the right to protest.''

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said he would expect his team to follow the NFL's new policy on the anthem.

"When the league makes a policy, the league makes a policy," Koetter said. "So anything else right now is irrelevant, what I think about it or what anybody else thinks about it. It just happened yesterday, so there's going to be some time to work through it. The clubs are going to have to sit down with the decision-makers and decide what the clubs are going to do individually.

"I'm on the record what I think about the national anthem. In a perfect world, everybody would stand. That's what I believe. But again, there's a policy now and we just have to work through it."

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