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Report: NFL considers 15-yard penalty for kneeling during national anthem

NFL owners on Tuesday mulled the possibility of assessing an in-game penalty against teams whose players kneel in protest during the national anthem.

Sports Illustrated reported that NFL owners met in Atlanta and discussed how to handle anthem protests moving forward.

One suggestion was to have the home team decide whether both teams would be on the field for "The Star-Spangled Banner," or remain in their respective locker rooms. If the teams chose to come out, a team would be assessed a 15-yard penalty if any of their players protested during the anthem.

Protests during the national anthem have been the most polarizing topic in sports since Colin Kaepernick began doing so during the 2016 preseason. Kaepernick began kneeling in protest of racial injustice across the United States, particularly police brutality against African Americans.

President Donald Trump has been one of the staunchest critics of protestors, calling on the NFL to fire or suspend players who knelt. Trump's public rhetoric caused a widespread player protest last September, but league owners, some of whom are friendly with the president, have taken heed of his message.

"The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don't feel is in the best interests of America," New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a meeting with players, per the New York Times' Ken Belson and Mark Leibovich. "It's divisive and it's horrible."

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair directly asked players to stop kneeling.

"You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you," McNair said.

While the league instituting a new rule could be seen as folding to Trump's demands, there are other sports leagues that explicitly require players stand for the anthem. NBA commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo around the league before the 2017-18 season reminding teams players are required to stand during the national anthem.

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