As the NFL Bans Kneeling During the National Anthem, a New Petition Urges Sponsors to Boycott the League

May 25, 2018, 11:25 AM UTC

After the NFL banned players from taking a knee during the national anthem, major sponsors of the league are facing calls to pull their support.

The NFL said Wednesday that players are free to stay in the locker room during the national anthem, but if they go out and kneel—which many have been doing to protest policy brutality—then they will face a fine.

New York Jets owner Christopher Johnson has promised his team will pay the fine if and when its players take a knee, as he does not “want to put restrictions on the speech of our players.”

Sponsors including Nike (NKE), Anheuser-Busch, Bose, Ford (F), Hyundai (HYMTF) and Under Armour (UAA) have already said that they support the players’ right to free speech, and now they’re under pressure to put that support into action.

A petition on the progressive Care2 website urges the brands to “put their money where their mouth is and stand in support of free speech and against police brutality” by ending their partnerships with the NFL.

“The league’s new policy is not only offensive, it’s contradictory,” the petition states. “NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the ban is to ensure that players and others show respect for the flag and the anthem. But if there is one thing that the flag represents, it’s freedom, and that includes the freedom to descent [sic] when you want to take a stand against a social ill. Especially when that ill affects nearly 70% of its players as African-Americans.”

At the time of writing, the petition had amassed almost 8,000 signatures, against a goal of 10,000.