Dolphins players who protest on the field during the national anthem could be suspended for up to four games under a team policy issued this week.
The “Proper Anthem Conduct” section is just one sentence in a nine-page discipline document provided to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the policy who insisted on anonymity because the document is not public. It classifies anthem protests under a large list of “conduct detrimental to the club,” all of which could lead to a paid or unpaid suspension, a fine or both.
The Dolphins’ policy comes after the NFL decided in May that teams would be fined if players didn’t stand during the anthem while on the field. The league left it up to teams on how to punish players. None of the team policies has been made public.
The NFL rule forbids players from sitting or taking a knee if they are on the field or sideline during the anthem, but allows them to stay in the locker room. The new league rules were challenged this month in a grievance by the players union.
The NFL declined to comment. Team officials had no immediate comment.
“Players who are on the field during the Anthem performance must stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem,” says the 16th and final bullet point in the list of conduct considered detrimental, below riding motorcycles during the season and disparaging teammates, coaches or officials, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
In May, after league owners unanimously adopted the anthem policy, Jets chairman Christopher Johnson told Newsday that his players would be free to take a knee or perform some other protest without fear of reprisals from the team.
“I do not like imposing any club-specific rules,” Johnson said. “If somebody takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines. I don’t want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won’t. There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”
The NFLPA said this month that the NFL policy, which the league imposed without consultation with the players union, is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights. The filing will be heard by an independent arbitrator, an NFLPA spokesman said.
When the league announced the policy, Goodell called it a compromise aimed at putting the focus back on football after a tumultuous year in which television ratings dipped nearly 10 percent.
The union said when it filed the grievance that it proposed having its executive committee talk to the NFL instead of litigating. The union said the NFL agreed to those discussions.