Two months ago, the NFL adopted a new policy requiring players to stand for the national anthem. Discipline would be taken against clubs and personnel that did not abide by that rule. However, they would be given the option of instead remaining in the locker room during the anthem’s playing.
I wrote a bit about the pointlessness of the new policy in a May column titled “The NFL’s National Anthem Policy Solves Nothing.” The crux of the article was my belief that the NFL was only making things worse by reigniting a divisive issue that was slowly beginning to subside.
Shockingly, the policy was not well received by the NFL Players Association, which filed a grievance claiming that the rule change “is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights.” As a result, the NFL is now freezing enforcement of the policy while holding discussions with the NFLPA.
More from ESPN NFL Insider Jeff Darlington:
Sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano that the NFL and NFLPA had been prepared to issue the standstill agreement Friday but moved up the announcement because of the Dolphins story that broke earlier Thursday from The Associated Press.
According to the AP report, the Dolphins could impose discipline of up to a four-game suspension for any player who protested during the anthem. The report cited a nine-page document the Dolphins filed with the NFL that overviewed the team’s overarching disciplinary policies.
However, multiple sources with the Dolphins and the NFL told ESPN that the Dolphins’ submission of their potential disciplinary policies was merely part of an annual filing required of every team before the start of training camp. One Dolphins source said the team has not discussed — and doesn’t expect to impose — suspensions for protesting during the anthem.
Anyway, like I wrote in the column, this whole thing is a big catch-22 for the athletes. Players who stay off the field will be criticized for staying off the field. Liberals will still think Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are being blackballed. Conservatives will still think the demonstrators hate America. Both sides are pretty steadfast on this topic and I really don’t see many minds being changed.
The policy was tone deaf and counterproductive and ultimate unnecessary, and I say this as political moderate who had five uncles, two grandfathers, and four cousins serve in the military. Both sides need to figure out a reasonable solution here or else this farce will continue into 2019 as more fans on both sides of the issue boycott the league.
The time is now yours.