NEW YORK—The NFL’s decision to punish some players’ peaceful, silent protest of racial injustice by fining teams whose players kneel during the National Anthem strikes a gratuitous blow to the free expression of players, PEN America said in a statement today.

After initially working with the NFL Players’ Association on ways to address the social justice issues that players’ protests were intended to spotlight, this new policy—apparently decided without consulting the Players’ Association—is a deeply disappointing departure from that spirit, and the NFL’s support for free expression.

“The NFL should be standing behind the players who give their all for the League on any given Sunday, and standing up for their right to peacefully express their views. Instead, they have chosen ​unilaterally ​to capitulate to those who want to turn this into a cheap political wedge issue,” said Suzanne Nossel, PEN America Chief Executive Officer. “We urge the NFL to rescind this ​punitive ​policy and return to the table to find a compromise with the Players’ Association​ that upholds free expression rights​.”


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator:​