Protests over the national anthem plagued the NFL last season, and it appears the issue won’t disappear anytime soon.

After Colin Kaepernick started the movement in 2016 to protest police brutality, other players began to follow suit. Even more players joined in after President Trump spoke out against the kneeling. However, more recently, the protests are losing their meaning, and most people don’t remember what they are about.

Despite confusion around the protests, people still feel strongly about the issue. Americans feel kneeling during the anthem disrespects the flag and want the players to stop. The NFL knows it has an issue, but has been unable to handle it.

So what is the NFL doing to tackle this problem?

The NFL Weighs In

In May, the NFL announced they would be requiring players to stand for the National Anthem if they were on the field. It did, however, give them the option to stay in the locker room during the ceremony. This policy was scrapped after it was leaked that the Miami Dolphins planned on suspending players up to four games for protesting during the Anthem.

The NFL and NFL Players Association put out a joint statement stating they will put the policy on hold until they can come to an agreement.

The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue. In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA’s grievance and on the NFL’s anthem policy. No new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing.

The NFL and NFLPA reflect the great values of America, which are repeatedly demonstrated by the many players doing extraordinary work in communities across our country to promote equality, fairness and justice.

Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation.

Why This Matters

Football is king in America. In the fall, Americans love to spend their weekends watching the sport. It is more popular than both baseball and basketball. The problem, however, is the plummeting ratings. The NFL’s ratings plummeted for a variety of reasons last season, and the Anthem protest is considered the main one. In order to further the success of the league, someone needs to tackle the issue.

The NFL needs to handle this because it is insulting the NFL’s customers. Over half of Americans believe it is never okay to kneel during the National Anthem. Even more than that number oppose the Anthem protests. This is inarguably turning viewers away from the game. Forty percent of veterans said last year that they won’t watch the games anymore due to the protests.

President Trump sees it as disrespectful, as do the majority of Americans, so he has been vocal against it. He tweeted the following on Monday.

Trump knows this is a winning issue, so he will continue to speak out against it.

Looking Forward

During a time of cord cutting, the NFL cannot afford to lose loyal viewers due to this issue. Losing viewers will hurt the league’s sponsors as well. Some sponsors have already pulled the plug, and more will follow if the NFL does not solve this.

Not only will it affect the NFL, but it will also continue to impact politics. Many people on the right see those who kneel as disrespectful or anti-American.  President Trump is winning this battle of the culture war against the kneeling players.

Until the NFL takes action, kneeling players will continue to be a big cultural issue on both sides of the aisle.