Formal vote before passing NFL's anthem policy not taken, league says

How NFL owners 'voted' on anthem policy (2:31)

Seth Wickersham joins OTL to discuss how NFL owners came to agree upon the new NFL anthem policy. (2:31)

The NFL did not take a formal roll-call vote when it passed its new national anthem resolution that will take effect this season, league spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed Thursday.

Instead, the league called for a show of owners' hands to test support of the new policy -- an unofficial process that is often used, McCarthy said. There were zero nays, he said.

"That was considered a vote," McCarthy said.

Sources told ESPN's Seth Wickersham that league officials wanted to make sure that the resolution would not fail, and so after hours of debate they called for the show of hands. The informal nature of it surprised some in the room. Not taking an official tally is atypical for a major resolution.

Later Thursday, Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis confirmed what Wickersham reported earlier -- that he abstained from the vote. Davis would not comment further about why he abstained, saying he wanted to speak with his players first before going public with his rationale.

"I haven't changed my mind," Davis told ESPN's Paul Gutierrez, referring to his feelings on the matter.

McCarthy did not immediately return a request for comment.

The new policy requires players to stand if they are on the field during the anthem but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if they prefer. The policy subjects teams to a fine if a player or other team personnel do not show respect for the anthem. That includes any attempt to sit or kneel, as dozens of players have done during the past two seasons to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday the vote was "unanimous" among owners, although San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York said he abstained.

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II told reporters Thursday that everyone had an opportunity to express their views, even if a formal vote wasn't taken.

Wednesday's decision drew praise from President Donald Trump, who told "Fox & Friends" on Thursday that the NFL was "doing the right thing."

The anthem policy will be part of the NFL's game operations manual and thus not subject to collective bargaining. The NFL Players Association said in a statement that it will review the policy and "challenge any aspect" that is inconsistent with the CBA.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith was on ESPN's Get Up! on Friday and called the league's voting process "haphazard."

"Suggests to me that this was more of a desperate attempt by a group of owners to simply quote-unquote 'get back to playing football' rather than to honestly and with a sense of what America means, to sit down and figure out what's the right thing to do," Smith said. "What I think they did was they sat down and tried to figure out, 'What can we get away with as quickly as possible?'"

Davis spoke to ESPN's Gutierrez about the anthem issue in September before the Raiders' nationally televised game in Washington, during the height of players taking a knee or sitting during the anthem in protest of police brutality against African-American men and inequality for people of color. At the time, Trump had just called any player kneeling a "son of a b----" who should be "fired" by the league.

"About a year ago, before our Tennessee game, I met with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack to ask their permission to have Tommie Smith light the torch for my father before the game in Mexico City," Davis said at the time. "I explained to them that I was asking their permission because I had previously told them that I would prefer that they not protest while in the Raiders uniform. And should they have something to say, once their uniform was off, I might go up there with them. Over the last year, though, the streets have gotten hot and there has been a lot of static in the air and recently, fuel has been added to the fire.

"I can no longer ask our team to not say something while they are in a Raider uniform. The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class. Do it with pride. Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with answers. That's the challenge in front of us as Americans and human beings."

ESPN's Kevin Seifert and Dan Graziano contributed to this report.