NFL players aren’t required to stand for the national anthem. However, they are required to display the American flag on their helmets.
League spokesman Brian McCarthy tells PFT that players are not permitted to remove the flag decal that appears on the back of every player’s helmet.
The rule likely has more to do with the NFL’s insistence of uniformity, especially since the NFL does not require players to stand for the anthem. The league wants all players to look and dress the same, with limited exceptions tied to breast cancer awareness games in October and the Salute to Service every November.
So if/when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick plays on Thursday night in San Diego, and whenever he plays in the NFL moving forward, he’ll wear a helmet that displays a symbol that he has decided not to honor by standing during the playing of the national anthem.