The National Football League (NFL) announced late yesterday (July 19) that it will not enforce or add to its two-month-old protest policy, which punishes players who protest during the national anthem with fines and other discipline. The NFL said the following in a joint statement with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA):
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 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.
The paused policy disregarded the protests’ original goal—to illuminate and fight anti-Black police violence, as initiated by Colin Kaepernick—and followed President Donald Trump and several NFL executives’ framing of the protests as "unpatriotic." Besides forcing players to protest in the locker room or another off-field location, the policy let individual teams decide their own punishments for these demonstrations outside of the league’s threatened team fines.
The Associated Press notes that the policy hold was announced soon after the news outlet obtained portions of a nine-page internal document from the Miami Dolphins. The document, as quoted by The AP yesterday (July 19), reportedly "included a one-sentence section on ‘Proper Anthem Conduct’" that listed on-field protests as an example of "conduct detrimental to the club," which could lead to fines or suspensions.
That report prompted backlash from those who critique the league’s reframing of the issue as one related to patriotism. For example, advocacy group Color of Change issued the following admonition:
Add @MiamiDolphins to the list of owners and teams that are silencing Black players from peacefully protesting against police brutality. It’s critical that we reaffirm what these protests are about and not let the owners off the hook. #TakeAKnee https://t.co/BwKto4fqwe
rnt— ColorOfChange.org (@ColorOfChange) July 19, 2018
rntOthers also noted that the proposed punishment—a four-game suspension—is tougher than what Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Jameis Winston received for sexual misconduct.
The Dolphins’ proposal of suspending players four games for peacefully protesting, is more than Jameis Winston’s three-game suspension for allegedly groping a woman.
rnt— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) July 19, 2018
“The NFL required each team to submit their rules regarding the anthem before their players reported to training camp," Dolphins leadership told The AP. "We will address this issue once the season starts. All options are still open.”