May 23 (UPI) -- Owners of teams in the National Football League approved a new policy Wednesday to hand out punishment when players don't stand for the national anthem.
Under the policy, the league will fine teams -- not players -- if they kneel or fail to show respect for The Star-Spangled Banner at the start of games. Individual teams, though, may adopt internal work rules for how players behave during the anthem.
The policy does allow players and personnel to "stay in the locker room or similar location off the field until after the anthem is performed."
The policy was unanimously approved by the league's 32 owners at a meeting in Atlanta.
The old policy called for players to be on the field for the anthem but said only that they "should" stand. The NFL had no plan in place to stop San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick from kneeling during the anthem in 2016 to protest police violence.
Kaepernick's protests were eventually picked up by other players and prompted some, including President Donald Trump, to criticize the players.
Team owners have been split on how to deal with the issue. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair have demanded their players stand. Others like New York Jets owner Christopher Johnson sought to avoid any suggestion that players' rights were being compromised.
Since the new policy is part of NFL game operations, it is not subject to the collective bargaining agreement between the league and players.
"We were not consulted ahead of this meeting on any potential changes to the anthem policy," George Atallah, assistant executive director of external affairs for NFL Players Association, said in a statement. "If there are changes to the policy that put players in a position where they could be disciplined or fined, we are going to do what we always do -- fight anything that encroaches on players' rights to the end."