DETROIT - The National Action Network is demanding that the Detroit Lions denounce the NFL's new national anthem policy.
Earlier this week, the NFL issued a new policy saying players must stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner" or remain in the locker room.
NAN members said the Lions' silence on the new policy, which they called racist, is the same as condoning it.
The group brought in a veteran for a small news conference on the sidewalk outside Ford Field, but they were told to move by Lions security.
The NAN reiterated that kneeling for the national anthem isn't a protest against America, the flag or the military, but against deadly police shootings of black men in the past few years. The group said if the Lions don't come out against the policy that players have to kneel in the locker room away from fans, there will be major protests outside the stadium on game days.
"The policy to force athletes to have to stay in the locker room for standing up for what they believe in is racist, and not only is it racist, it is a challenge to the First Amendment and freedom of speech," pastor Charles Williams II said.
"The question is, by stating that players have to silently or privately protest, are we saying that this war that is happening on the black body here in America is not an American issue?" asked Kayla Kennard, of Wayne State University.
Head coach Matt Patricia and quarterback Matthew Stafford were asked about the new policy Thursday. Patricia said he hasn't talked with ownership about how the team will handle the situation, but he expects they will have a conversation.
"We haven't talked about it as a team," Stafford said. "We'll figure all that stuff out when it comes to September. I'm not too worried about it at the moment, just focused on trying to get better."
Owner Martha Ford spoke out last season, saying she wanted to support any players who wanted to start a community cause. A handful of other NFL teams have put out statements, but the owner of the New York Jets said he's always stood behind his players' rights to protest under the First Amendment, and the team will pay for any fines they receive.
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