Do NFL rules say players must stand during the anthem?

You may have seen it in comment sections across social media Sunday. The so-called “rule” forcing all NFL players to be on the sidelines for the national anthem spread like wildfire.

On Sunday, many social media users posted the following text:

“The specific NFL rule pertaining to the national anthem is found on pages A62-63 of the league rulebook. It states: The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.

“During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition.

It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”

However, nowhere in the NFL's 2017 Official Playing Rules does the organization mention the national anthem. And pages 62 and 63 contain information on the enforcement of fouls.

View searchable 2017 NFL Rulebook

The only section of the rulebook that could relate to the issue is on page 23, Article 8 “PERSONAL MESSAGES.”

The rule states:

“Throughout the period on game-day that a player is visible to the stadium and television audience (including in pregame warm-ups, in the bench area, and during postgame interviews in the locker room or on the field), players are prohibited from wearing, displaying, or otherwise conveying personal messages either in writing or illustration, unless such message has been approved in advance by the League office. Items to celebrate anniversaries or memorable events, or to honor or commemorate individuals, such as helmet decals, and arm bands and jersey patches on players’ uniforms, are prohibited unless approved in advance by the League office. All such items approved by the League office, if any, must relate to team or League events or personages. The League will not grant permission for any club or player to wear, display, or otherwise convey messages, through helmet decals, arm bands, jersey patches, or other items affixed to game uniforms or equipment, which relate to political activities or causes, other non-football events, causes or campaigns, or charitable causes or campaigns. Further, any such approved items must be modest in size, tasteful, non-commercial, and noncontroversial; must not be worn for more than one football season; and if approved for use by a specific team, must not be worn by players on other teams in the League.”

Several teams including the Seattle Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans opted to stay in their respective locker rooms as the anthem played before their game at Nissan Stadium.

On Sunday, almost every NFL team had players who either sat down or kneeled during the national anthem in protest, one day after President Donald Trump criticized players for not standing and called on NFL owners to fire or suspend players who disrespected the flag.