N.F.L. Puts New Anthem Policy On Hold

In the wake of a grievance filed by the union representing players, the N.F.L. has suspended the new National Anthem policy it announced earlier this year. This guarantees even more cynical political exploitation by the President.

Responding to a grievance filed by the union representing players, the National Football League has announced that it was putting its new policy requiring players to stand for the National Anthem if they are on the field at the time it is performed on hold:

The NFL halted implementation of its new national anthem policy under an agreement with the NFL Players Association.

The sides announced the deal Thursday night. The agreement also keeps the grievance filed by the NFLPA over the anthem policy, ratified by the NFL owners at their May meeting in Atlanta, from moving forward, at least temporarily.

“Everything is on hold,” said one person familiar with the situation, confirming that both implementation of the anthem policy by the league and the union’s grievance are included in that.

The league and union said in a joint written statement: “The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, 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 new anthem policy leaves it up to each team whether a player would be disciplined for a protest during the anthem. The policy says that a team will be fined by the league for any protest by its players. It gives players the option to remain in the locker room during the anthem but says any player who is on the field is expected to stand for the anthem.

For now, at least, that new policy is on hold. The NFL’s previous anthem policy, included in its game operations manual, required players to be on the sideline for the anthem. It suggested players stand for the anthem but did not require them to do so.

That previous policy presumably goes back into effect, pending a resolution by the league and the union in coming weeks. NFL teams have begun reporting to training camps, and the preseason begins Aug. 2. The regular season begins Sept. 6.

The NFL’s approach to the anthem and the player protests remained engulfed by controversy since the owners’ attempt in May to put the issues to rest.

Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey told CNN at a promotional event in London this week that he was prepared to protest during the anthem and accept any fine imposed on him this coming season. Earlier Thursday, the Miami Dolphins left open the possibility that a player of theirs could be subject to a suspension of four games without pay for conduct detrimental to the team in the event of protesting during the anthem.

The Dolphins were not committing themselves to any particular penalty for a player who protests during the anthem, according to a person familiar with the team’s planning, who added: “We will address this issue once the season starts. All options are still open.”

According to that person, teams were required to submit their anthem-related rules to the league before their players reported to training camp.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, the maximum penalty that a team can assess for conduct detrimental to the club is a four-game suspension without pay. The Dolphins thus classified a protest by a player during the anthem as conduct detrimental to the team and outlined the maximum possible penalty.

This decision by the league to put the new policy on hold comes after the N.F.L. Players Association filed an official grievance against it last week and, as noted, on the same day that the Miami Dolphins announced a new policy that appeared to say that a player who kneeled during the anthem would be suspended for four games without pay, although it did not appear to require players to be on the field during the Anthem and the Dolphins back office was non-committal on the question of whether or not such suspensions would actually be enforced in the event a player or players chose to kneel during the Anthem. It also comes just weeks before the pre-season begins next month and about six weeks before the season begins in September, at which point it’s inevitable that the protest issue will be front and center as it has been for the past two seasons.

As with nearly everything else these days, this entire issue is tied up with politics and the impact that President Trump has had on cultural issues since entering the race for President more than three years ago. The kneeling protests themselves began, of course, during the 2016 season when Colin Kaepernick, who was at the time a Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers began kneeling during the National Anthem. Initially at least, Kaepernick didn’t explain his actions but eventually he explained that he was kneeling as a form of protest against racism, police brutality, and the treatment of African-Americans by police, issues that had come to the forefront of American politics thanks to events such as the death of Michael Brown in the summer of 2015 and the death a year earlier of Eric Garner. For much of the 2016 season, Kaepernick was joined by a handful of others players, and at least initially the protests got some attention in no small degree because of their novelty. After a few weeks, though, the issue largely disappeared from the headlines and the season went on normally with very little controversy except perhaps some complaints from conservatives on social media.

When the 2017 season started a year ago, there were some sporadic case of players kneeling during the National Anthem, but as with the majority of the 2016 season it was not a very big news item and not really a controversy that was given much attention outside of the “Outrage Of The Day” conservative news media. That all changed when the President of the United States decided to get involved. It began during a campaign speech in Alabama in late September when Trump went after the players who were kneeling during the Anthem, calling them “sons of bitches” and calling on the league and/or the teams to fire or otherwise discipline players who don’t stand for the Anthem. While Trump’s tirade was received well by his supporters and by conservatives in general, it was not well received in the league or among the players. Responding to the President, the league, the NFL Players Association, and basically, all the team owners voiced support for the protesting players. Additionally, the weeks immediately after the President’s statement saw the kneeling protests expand as players of all races either knelt during the Anthem or engaged in some other form of showing solidarity with those players who chose to do so. It was during this period that Vice-President Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game when some players knelt during the Anthem, in what was obviously a staged photo opportunity by the White House to further stir the pot. Several weeks later, the league announced that it would not discipline players who continued to kneel during the Anthem, and polling in both September and October showed that most Americans opposed the position taken by the President.

This brings us to the announcement in May of the new Anthem policy by the league, an announcement that didn’t seem to please anyone. Under the new policy, players would no longer be required to be on the field during the National Anthem, which had been the policy until roughly the 2006 season, but if they were they would be required to stand and could be subject to discipline if they did not stand. Alternatively, the league stated that teams or individual players could decide to remain off-field, either in the locker room or the tunnel underneath most N.F.L. stadiums from which the teams enter and leave the field, and act in whatever manner they chose as long as it was not disruptive. This caused President Trump to speak out and say that the new policy was insufficient, that players should not be excused from standing during the Anthem, and that anyone who refused to stand for the Anthem should leave the country. Shortly after this, the President canceled a visit by the Super Bowl Champion Eagles to the White House apparently due in part to the Anthem protest issue notwithstanding the fact that no Eagles player had kneeled during any regular season game in 2017. As had been the case during the earlier seasons, polling showed that most Americans opposed the President on this issue, but that Republicans strongly supported him.

Assuming that this suspension of the new policy remains in place when the season begins in six weeks, it would basically mean that the old policy, under which players were required to be on the field during the National Anthem, will be in place in its place. This likely means that we’ll see new kneeling protests and new efforts by the President to use this as an issue to rile up his base in the advance of the elections. As I’ve said before, it’s obvious that the purpose behind the President’s focus o this issue has nothing to do with the flag, the National Anthem, or the National Football League. Instead, Trump clearly recognizes this as an issue that he can use to energize his base and to stoke the racial fires that he was so obviously trying to stoke during his campaign for the Presidency. The fact that he’s making it clear that the N.F.L.’s attempt at a compromise will not be acceptable to him means, of course, that he fully intends on continuing to stoke the fires of this issue during the upcoming season. The fact that this will just happen to coincide with the midterm elections is, I’m sure, purely coincidental.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Entertainment, Politicians, Sports, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    It’s fascinating that such a well-run entity is handling this issue so poorly, and is allowing themselves to be used by such a colossal idiot.

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    White plantation owners say, “Ya’ll n—ers best stand the hell up when we-ah play the national anthem!”

    White plantation owners shocked when uppity union says, “Screw you.”

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  3. Robert C says:

    Cancelled NFL Sunday ticket last year because Kap was blacklisted. Will probably boycott games this year. Goodell needs to quit licking Trumps boots.

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  4. James Pearce says:

    We need to be way more tolerant of encountering ideas and people we do not agree with. If the principle is “Destroy the dissenter” dissenters should expect to be destroyed.

    (Good on the NFLPA for pushing back on this. I think the protests are stupid and ill-advised, but I’m not down with “Destroy the dissenter.”)

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  5. Kathy says:

    Here’s an idea that better reflects current American reality:

    Play the Russian anthem, along with a gigantic picture of Putin, and everyone, players, coaches, refs, public, etc. is required to prostrate themselves just like Trump did.

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  6. James Pearce says:

    @Robert C:

    Cancelled NFL Sunday ticket last year because Kap was blacklisted.

    Liberals abandoning football is one of the reasons why NFL execs feel like they have to quash these protests.

    The conservatives still watching don’t like them.

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  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Robert C:

    Cancelled NFL Sunday ticket

    I’m sure Goodell is staying up nights.
    @James Pearce:

    Liberals abandoning football is one of the reasons why NFL execs feel like they have to quash these protests. The conservatives still watching don’t like them.

    Complete nonsense…per usual.

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  8. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Complete nonsense…per usual.

    The NFL implemented this “no protest” policy because they were scared of a backlash, but not from your crew.

  9. al Ameda says:

    @James Pearce:
    I think it’s interesting that some people are turning away from the NFL over this peaceful protest during the Anthem. These are people who are leaving a sport they love to watch ostensibly because of a 3 minute protest, which is prelude to a 2-3 hour extravaganza of action, inaction, halftime, and commercials, lots of commercials.

    The NFL is a bloated and very self-important spectacle. It’s also a very conservative ownership dominated league, not surprisingly the NFL Players’ Association is the weakest in all of professional sports. By contrast, the NBA has no such problem with protest, and the NBA ownership groups discusses this with player reps. NFL ownership is reticent to bring the players in on this because it wants to retain its power and prerogatives to completely govern the players through workplace rules.

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  10. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @James Pearce:

    Liberals abandoning football is one of the reasons why NFL execs feel like they have to quash these protests.

    Nope. I think that the biggest problem is that the owners and Goodell have no idea about what they are messing with. Professional sports is not cable news, you need the younger crowd that’s more likely to side with Kaepernick or that does not want these political debates on sports.

    There is also the additional challenge of internationalizing the league – you don’t have Messi and Ronaldo arguing about these protests on the UEFA Champions League. Many owners see their subsidized franchises as toys.

  11. de stijl says:

    The NFL cannot stop digging even when they know they’re hole-bound. They can co-opt breast cancer awareness and give our military mega hugs. Had they shut their fucking cake holes, Kaepernick would be currently backing up Flacco or Cousins as his last stop before exiting the league and the act of kneeling in protest of police killing unarmed black men would have died on the vine.

    Blackballing Colin Kaepernick made this the talk of the town. Rather than taking three weeks of mixed reaction they created this multi-year disaster.

    It was during this period that Vice-President Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game when some players knelt during the Anthem, in what was obviously a staged photo opportunity by the White House to further stir the pot.

    How damned stupid are you to be played by those amateurs? The league got snookered and then the owners (half of them or two-thirds, whatever the voting process is) said please give us more, please make us bespoil ourselves again publicly before we learn to shut the fuck up.

    You’ve now ticked off everyone and this still a thing years later and a marginal QB is the current-day Rosa Parks with a message and platform to taunt and humiliate you for years to come. All because you couldn’t swallow three weeks of mixed press.

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  12. Robert C says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    I slept better.

  13. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    It wasn’t just another protest, though. Kaepernick’s knee had teeth and legs. It had to be quashed. It was provocative because it was truthful. Unarmed black men are killed by cops routinely and this has happened since forever. Shamefully, this is only now a thing because of recent assassinations captured on video. Mere descriptions were not enough to galvanize us previously.

  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:
    Fvck you…my crew.
    And now they’ve put it on hold because they are getting more backlash.
    The whole thing is as dumb as you are.

  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Pearce: I’m not down with “destroy the dissenters” either. On the other hand, my side was not the one that advocated firing people and demanding that they leave the country. So, I’m left with an old Irish proverb that my mother taught me.

    Never start a fight, but never, ever, leave one unfinished.

    I adjust what I am down with based on the circumstances. Perhaps you don’t.

  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl:

    Had they shut their fucking cake holes, Kaepernick would be currently backing up Flacco or Cousins as his last stop before exiting the league and the act of kneeling in protest of police killing unarmed black men would have died on the vine.

    Tru dat!

  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Robert C: And you have a couple of hundred bucks to spend elsewhere. Win Win!

  18. James Pearce says:

    I think it’s interesting that some people are turning away from the NFL over this peaceful protest during the Anthem.

    That’s our culture now, and it’s not really “interesting.” It’s just sad and toxic.

    There are plenty of legit criticisms to be made of the NFL. The boycotters may not notice, but football fans spend the entire fall debating them.

    Kaepernick would be currently backing up Flacco or Cousins as his last stop before exiting the league

    No, he wouldn’t. If was a WR or a RB, maybe some other team would give him a chance. But as QB? No team was going to give him the keys after that stunt. It’s not racism or even politics. It’s football.

    And now they’ve put it on hold because they are getting more backlash.

    They put it on hold because it was a cowardly “split the baby” half-measure that left no one satisfied. The players are right to press the issue and I hope they prevail.

    All backlashers should now disperse and return to their homes.

    I adjust what I am down with based on the circumstances.

    Oh, I do too. Remember when this was about police violence? Now it’s about free speech and whether Trump is going to tweet about it. Beware the mission creep.

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  19. de stijl says:

    You know that feeling when you finally pay off your vehicle (or your house) and all those assholes just disappear? They no longer matter or have a hold on you? That’s a really great feeling. Live that as long as you can.

  20. de stijl says:

    You are in a place where fatuous bullshit can be ignored. I already own my own thing, so why would I care about or respond to obvious fake shit that does not pertain, is not relevant, and is childish (not talkin’ Gambino here). Don’t catch you slippin’ up .

    This Is America
    https://youtu.be/VYOjWnS4cMY

  21. de stijl says:

    You want to bracket and isolate people whose sole purpose is disruption and strife. We need to contain their mischief. Bracket, isolate, contain. Just Play safe.

    That piercing sound you hear automatically plays when we fail to isolate and contain the interloper. Beep, beep, beep. By James, that’s annoying AF.

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Pearce: “. Remember when this was about police violence? Now it’s about free speech…”

    Actually, I never saw it as about police violence. It was always about free speech. Even before Trump, there were ignint crackers complainin’ about that nCLANG, his afro, his crazy ideas, and all the rest. It’s as El Rushbo believed–white folk don’t want black folk playing in white folk positions on the football field. I know that’s what my uncle–a high school science teacher turned coach turned principal turned superintendent thought. He always was looking for kids with “big black arms and big black legs.” And he would be the first to tell you he didn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body, too.

  23. James Pearce says:

    @de stijl: Nice wordplay, but lyrical MCs are passe.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    It’s as El Rushbo believed–white folk don’t want black folk playing in white folk positions on the football field.

    Yeah, I know that’s a thing, but it’s less of a thing now, and I hope that someday it won’t be a thing at all.

    Every black quarterback playing in the league right now is there because 10-15 years ago, they played for a coach who rejected that racist crap and believed in their talent.

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Pearce: Keep dreaming. As long as there are white folk, keepin’ the black folk in their place will be a thing. I’m sorry, but Americans aren’t good enough people to set this aside. It’s bone deep.

  25. James Pearce says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: If I believed that, I wouldn’t be a liberal.

    I’d be a progressive.