Miami Dolphins players who protest on the field during the national anthem could face suspension for up to four games under a new team policy, the Associated Press reported on Monday afternoon.
The team’s nine-page discipline document, which was provided to the Associated Press by a person familiar with the policy, includes anthem protests under a long list of “conduct detrimental to the club,” all of which could lead to a fine, a paid or unpaid suspension, or both. The document has not yet been released to the public.
In March, Dolphins owner Steve Ross told the New York Daily News that “all of our players will be standing,” explaining that although he had supported their right to kneel as an exercise of freedom of speech, he felt the message being sent by players kneeling was a protest against “support of our country or the military.” He later walked back the comments, writing in an Instagram post that he regretted his comments and had “no intention of forcing our players to stand during the national anthem.”
The new policy for the Dolphins is the latest in a series of efforts within the NFL to crack down on players who choose to kneel during the national anthem. The controversy has been a hot-button topic for months, with defenders of the players arguing that they have the right to exercise freedom of speech, while critics — including President Donald Trump — have argued that the decision to kneel is offensive to the flag and to the United States. In May, the league unilaterally imposed new guidelines that barred players from kneeling on the field during the playing of the anthem.
“All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and Anthem,” the new guidelines said. “A club will be fined by the league if its personnel are on the field and so not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”
Players are allowed to remain in the locker room during the anthem.
With the new NFL season on the horizon — training camp begins at the end of July — the issue that has embroiled the league for the better part of the last two seasons could rear its head again.
Later Thursday night, the NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement saying they have been “working on a resolution to the anthem issue. In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA’s grievance and on the NFL’s anthem policy. No new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing.
“The NFL and NFLPA reflect the great values of America, which are repeatedly demonstrated by the many players doing extraordinary work in communities across our country to promote equality, fairness and justice. Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation.”
Defenders of the policy have pointed to the NBA’s own National Anthem rules, which also requires all players to stand. The key difference here is that the NBA’s rules were collectively bargained with the NBA Players Association, whereas the NFL’s rules were decided amongst the owners only.