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NFL-NFLPA agree to pause National Anthem policy hours after Dolphins conduct policy goes public

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NFL: Super Bowl LII-Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

News broke yesterday that the Miami Dolphins had included the possibility of suspending players up to four games for protesting during the National Anthem. The wording of the policy, which was included in the team’s annual conduct policy submitted to the league, listed the protests as “conduct detrimental to the club,” under which teams are allowed to fine or suspend players. The Dolphins were not said to be definitely planning to suspend any players, but had included it - likely as a part of the league’s efforts to end the National Anthem protests.

The league had previously announced a policy which required all members of the team - player, coach, and staff - who are on the sideline during the National Anthem to stand. They would allow anyone who did not want to stand to remain in the locker room during the anthem, and any team that had members kneel or conduct some other protest would face a fine. The league stressed that it would be the team that would be fined, with the teams then left to decide what they would do - if anything - to the player. The Dolphins simply included the possibility - a possibility they could choose not to use - of fining or suspending the player in their conduct policy to meet the NFL’s guidelines.

Now, however, the league has done the Dolphins no favors by announcing a standstill agreement with the NFL Players Association in an effort to negotiate exactly how the National Anthem policy will work. Hours after the Associated Press made it sound as if the Dolphins were out to get any player who knelt - despite having had players kneel the last two seasons - the league and NFLPA released a joint 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 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.

Now, as other teams report to camp and submit their annual conduct and possible punishment policies, they can leave the National Anthem protests issue out of those policies, effectively making it so the Dolphins - who were among the first teams to have players reporting when their rookies showed up for camp on Thursday - will appear to be the only team interested in suspending players for kneeling.

Again, no favors done by the league for the Dolphins.