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Dolphins establish possible four-game suspension for anthem protests but not expected to use it

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have submitted their annual disciplinary plan to the NFL, and it includes a section entitled “Proper Anthem Conduct” that could lead to a four-game suspension, according to a report from the Associated Press. This document, which teams submit every year, defines what a team may do to players if discipline is required. According to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington on SportsCenter, the Dolphins have no intention of actually suspending players for anthem protests, but wrote into the document the highest level of punishment they could in order to codify the league’s own anthem policy.

The Dolphins have had players kneel during the anthem the last two years, including wide receiver Kenny Stills, safety Michael Thomas, and tight end Julius Thomas last year. The team briefly enforced a policy of either having all players standing on the sideline, or the player could choose to remain in the locker room - similar to the new league-wide policy - but abandoned it after discussions between the players and head coach Adam Gase.

Stills is the only one of the three players still with the club as Michael Thomas signed with the New York Giants and Julius Thomas was released.

The punishment for kneeling, which is defined as “conduct detrimental to the club,” could include a fine or a suspension, with both paid and unpaid suspensions possible.

Darlington, who had worked as a Dolphins beat writer prior to leaving for a stint at the NFL Network and now on to ESPN, pointed out that, while the Dolphins are the first team to have this type of disciplinary plan reported, they are also one of the first teams to have players report for training camp - Miami’s rookies reported on Thursday. He said he would expect more teams to have similar language revealed once they submit their plans as have players report.

Update: Darlington continued to explain the Dolphins’ policy in a series of tweets:

Update 2: Adam Beasley and Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald backed up Darlington’s reporting with more confirming the Dolphins submitted this policy just to ensure they feel in line with the league’s new policy, but do not yet have a formalized plan for what they will do once the season starts if they have any players who choose to kneel:

The NFL required each team to submit their rules regarding the anthem before reporting for training camp,” a source close to the Dolphins told the Miami Herald. “Since the rookies reported on Wednesday, [the Dolphins] had to have a policy in place.We will address this once the season starts and all options are still on the table.”