The NFL can’t seem to get away from the divisive national anthem issue. The latest developments this week assure that, despite the league’s wishes, the debate about how to handle players who kneel during the anthem will continue to dominate the NFL discussion. Here’s what we know.
What’s going on with the anthem now?
On Thursday, the Miami Dolphins produced a document, obtained by The Associated Press, that classified anthem protests as “conduct detrimental to the club” and said they could lead to a suspension or fine. In the wake of the criticism that followed, the team denied the policy was set in stone and said that “all options are still open.”
Shortly after, the NFL and its players union agreed to hold off on a new national anthem policy. In the meantime, the two sides will discuss the matter and try to come to a resolution both sides can live with. The union had filed a grievance over the policy.
“In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue,” the league and union said in a joint statement, “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.”
What is the policy?
In May, the NFL announced that players on the field would be required to stand respectfully during the national anthem. It gave players the option of remaining in the locker room during the anthem if they chose to.
If players violate the rules, teams can be fined, and will then have the option of disciplining the players.
The policy was prompted by a handful of players, led by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who have knelt during the anthem over the past two seasons to protest police violence against minorities and economic inequality.
Have we seen the end of anthem protests?
Jurrell Casey, the Tennessee Titans star defensive lineman, said this week he planned to continue protesting and was willing to pay a fine to do so. He had raised a fist during the anthem last season. The Titans responded by saying they wanted to talk with Casey, but did not immediately threaten him with discipline.
What’s going on with Kaepernick and Eric Reid?
After he was seen as a ringleader of the nascent protests in the 2016 season, Kaepernick was unable to find a team for 2017. He filed a grievance charging the teams with colluding against him. That process continues to move, slowly, with depositions being taken from league and team officials.
Safety Eric Reid, another protester, filed a grievance of his own in May alleging that collusion had kept him from getting a job for the coming season. Reid is also a key part of the union’s grievance against the new rules.
What are people saying?
Surprise! The divisive anthem issue is still polarizing.
“If this was really about the national anthem, all @NFL teams would bar entry to stadiums, close restrooms, and shut down concession stands and merchandise shops during the song,” one person wrote on Twitter. “This isn’t about the anthem at all. It’s about silencing black athletes and pandering to Trump voters.”
Another wrote, “If Roger Goodell can’t figure out a unified, fair and rational solution to the national anthem before the start of this season, he should not be the commissioner of the NFL. It’s as simple as that.”
Nothing yet on the new developments from President Donald Trump, who has said the proposed NFL policy does not go far enough and that players who stayed behind in the locker room maybe “shouldn’t be in the country.”