By John Shumway

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PITTSBURGH, Pa. (KDKA) – What Colin Kaepernick started the NFL owners ended on Wednesday — kneeling during the national anthem without consequence.

“I think that we’ve listened to a lot of different viewpoints including our fans over the last year, and I think this policy attempts to come out in a place where we respected everybody’s point of view on this as best we could,” Steelers Owner Art Rooney II said.

The policy ends the league’s requirement that players must be on the field for the anthem, allowing protestors to remain in their locker room. However, if they do come on the field, the policy says they will be required to stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. If anyone kneels or sits, the league will fine the team, the commissioner will discipline the player, and the individual teams will be able to take whatever local disciplinary action they choose.

In Market Square on Wednesday, fans had a lot of different viewpoints on the divisive issue.

“They should keep them off the field if they don’t want to participate in the national anthem,” Tracy Saunders of Glenshaw said.

“I think the NFL is doing good enforcing that you should respect the flag and the country,” Max Hibbs of Marlton, NJ, said.

Ashley Johnson of Elliott said, “If they are willing to stand up and say, ‘I don’t want to stand during the national anthem. I’d rather sit or I’d rather kneel,’ I don’t think they should be fined. I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

“I agree with people needing to respect the flag, but right now not everyone has their liberty and equality so I think they have the right to protest and if they don’t you’re taking away their first amendment,” Leah Nichols of Mt. Laurel, NJ, said.

Kim Henderson of Natrona Heights said, “People should honor the flag and Americans should stand when they are doing the national anthem so I’m all for it.”

“I don’t think they should be forced to stand or put their hand over the chest,” Lamont Stone of Monroeville said. “They should be able to stand there and put their beliefs out there for everyone to see.”

The kneeling protest was rooted in a protest of social injustice and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged that aspect of the controversy in his statement about the new policy today:

“We are dedicated to continuing our collaboration with players to advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society,” Goodell said in his statement. “The efforts by many of our players sparked awareness and action around issues of social justice that must be addressed. The platform that we have created together is certainly unique in professional sports and quite likely in American business. We are honored to work with our players to drive progress. It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.”

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