BALTIMORE, MD. – Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. President Everett B. Ward called the National Football League’s owners’ unanimous decision to require players to stand when on the field during the performance of the national anthem, an attack on “the very concepts of patriotism and democracy” and urged them to reverse their decision.

In a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, President Ward expressed his deep concern on behalf of the more than 150,000 members of the nation’s first intercollegiate Greek-lettered Fraternity for African American men and see the decision as effort to stifle player protests raising awareness about police brutality, hate crimes as well as hateful rhetoric.

“Protests are meant to be disruptive, inconvenient, provocative, and uncomfortable to stir the collective consciousness of people of goodwill to act for the betterment of society,” he wrote. “Peaceful protests, such as those led by our fraternity brother Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., influenced civil rights legislation and U.S. Supreme Court constitutional precedent during times of great civil unrest in American society. We should never lose sight of the aims of the protest because of the methods of the protest. Civil rights icon Rosa Parks was not anti-bus; she was anti-segregation and inequality in public accommodations. Likewise, NFL athletes and their millions of supporters are not opposed to the flag and all of the hope and promise that it stands for, but instead opposed to the brutal and often dehumanizing mistreatment of African Americans and other marginalized groups in our society.”

In addition, President Ward called on the NFL to not only reverse their decision regarding the anthem policy, but to enact an anthem policy that allows players to continue their peaceful protests of the racial injustice that exists in this country. The NFL should also join forces with organizations and individuals (including its athletes) that are committed to addressing this important issue. Alpha Phi Alpha is ready, willing, and able to work with the NFL if the NFL will make this commitment.

“Rather than react to social pressures or threats to its profitability, the NFL must instead be visionaries and a force to shape the discussion and attitudes around issues of racial inequality that persists in this country since the institution of slavery,” Ward wrote. “Reactionary policies may appear to be financially prudent in the short run, but in the long run may prove costly.”