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The NFL Told Teams to Stand During the National Anthem in the 1960s

On Wednesday, the NFL announced that players must either stand for the national anthem when it is played at their games or remain in the locker room; if they come onto the field but don’t stand, their teams will be fined. The decision comes more than a year after San Francisco 49ers then-quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to sit and kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a protest against police brutality, inspiring other players to do the same. This isn’t the first time that the commissioner of the league has decided to clarify how players should act during the song….

“My original idea was to pull a [Tommie] Smith by raising my right fist in the air and bowing my head,” [David Meggyesy, a linebacker for the St. Louis Cardinals] wrote in his 1970 tell-all Out of Their League. “Instead, I decided not to salute the flag but to pretend I was nervous for the game. I was aware that if my protest was too obvious I would be severely fined. When the National Anthem started I stepped out of line and began kicking the dirt and holding my helmet down in front of me with my two hands. My head was bowed and I was spitting on the ground and moving from side to side scuffing the ground with my shoes.”

But his more subtle protest was still noticed. Especially after a sports columnist covered his actions, the team and local radio stations were flooded with callers complaining about Meggyesy’s apparent lack of patriotism. “At the start of our next game,” he later told writer Dave Zirin, “some fans unfurled a big banner that said ‘The Big Red [the nickname of the Cardinals] think Pink.’ It was their way of saying that I was a ‘pinko’ (a communist), and that we were a ‘pinko’ team.”

Read entire article at Time Magazine