NFL expected to enact national anthem policy for '18

The NFL is expected to enact a national anthem policy in 2018 that requires players on the sideline to stand but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they don't want to stand, NFL Network's Judy Battista and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

Under the anticipated change, individual teams will have the power to set their own policies in order to ensure the anthem is being respected during any on-field action, Rapoport reported. If a player chooses to protest on the sideline, the player's team could potentially fine him and the league could fine the team, Battista reported.

NFL team owners are expected to formally adopt the changes at the Spring League Meeting in Atlanta on Wednesday.

"Maybe this new rule proposal that is being voted on is a 'compromise' between the NFL office and club CEOs on various sides of the issue, but certainly not with player leadership; we weren't there or part of the discussions," NFLPA spokesperson George Atallah said in a statement Wednesday.

The expected change comes after players throughout the league chose not to stand during the anthem prior to the start of games during the 2017 season. The protests, which started in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the anthem to draw awareness to issues of social inequality against minorities, became a central issue for the NFL after President Trump criticized the movement during a speech last September, stating players should be fired for not standing.

After discussing the topic at length with team owners at the Fall League Meeting last year, Goodell said the NFL wouldn't force players to stand for the national anthem even though the league believed they should stand.

Off the field, the league has made a push to address social issues important to players. Working in conjunction with the Players Coalition, the league stepped up its efforts to support players on social issues important to them, dedicating $89 million to efforts combating social inequality.

UPDATE: Goodell formally announced the new policy at the Spring League Meeting.