The NFL has backed down on its controversial policy… for now. USA TODAY Sports’ Lindsay H. Jones explains why.
President Trump took the opportunity Friday to take another shot at the NFL as the league attempts to put the kibosh on its latest national anthem controversy.
“The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again,” Trump tweeted, “can’t believe it! Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!”
The latest problems surfaced Thursday when a document from the Miami Dolphins was obtained by The Associated Press. That leaked document suggested players could be fined or suspended for failing to adhere to a new league policy mandating players and team personnel to stand for the pre-game playing of the anthem. Players who had chosen to kneel in the past would be allowed to remain in the locker room. Teams can now be fined if their employees do not stand and “show respect” during the anthem.
Thursday evening, the league and NFL Players Association, which is fighting the new policy, agreed to a pause of any enforcement while the two sides try to broker a new solution.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross released a statement Friday suggesting the team’s policy was temporary.
“The one line sentence related to the national anthem was a placeholder as we haven’t made a decision on what we would do, if anything, at that point,” Ross wrote in a statement.
Several teams, including the New York Giants and Jets, have said they will support players who kneel during the anthem and won’t pass on any fines levied by the league.
The NFL is headed into a third season with the anthem controversy as a front-burner issue. It began in the 2016 preseason when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat (and later kneeled) during The Star-Spangled Banner in an attempt to protest social inequality and police brutality. Teammates and other players across the league later joined Kaepernick. Since becoming a free agent after the 2016 season, Kaepernick has remained unsigned.
Trump stirred the issue last September at a rally in Alabama when he said his reaction to a protesting player would be to “get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired.”
That sparked a new round of protests league-wide, with some clubs kneeling en masse, and led to several subsequent rounds of critical tweets and comments from the President. The league unveiled the new policy during the owners meeting in May. However Trump, at a rally in Montana earlier this month, said that the NFL’s new anthem policy is “worse.”
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