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NFL players union files grievance over league’s national anthem policy

Houston Texans players kneel and stand during the

Houston Texans players kneel and stand during the singing of the national anthem on Oct. 29, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Elaine Thompson

The NFL Players Association filed a grievance on behalf of its players Wednesday challenging the league’s revised national anthem policy that was approved by team owners in May.

The NFLPA said in a statement that the revised policy is “inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights.” The statement also said that the NFLPA is delaying the start of litigation and will discuss the anthem policy with the league.

“We proposed to the NFL to begin confidential discussions with the NFLPA Executive Committee to find a solution to this issue instead of immediately proceeding with litigation,” the statement said. “The NFL has agreed to proceed with those discussions and we look forward to starting them soon.”

The NFL did not comment immediately on the NFLPA’s filing of the grievance.

Owners voted 31-0 — with only the 49ers abstaining — during meetings in Atlanta to revise the policy, which now requires players on the field to stand during the national anthem. The revised policy also allows players who don’t want to participate in the anthem ceremony to remain in the locker room. A team can be fined by the NFL if any player on the field kneels during the anthem. Steelers owner Art Rooney II said after the vote that a player raising a fist or demonstrating in another way also would risk having his team fined. Under the revised policy, teams also are permitted to discipline players who protest during the anthem.

During the 2016 season, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the anthem to draw attention to social injustice in the United States. Several other players also took a knee or protested in some way. The NFL has been heavily criticized by President Donald Trump and fans for not requiring players to stand.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said after the revised policy was enacted that the league’s objective is for people “to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion.”

The NFLPA said in a statement after the vote in May that it had not been consulted on the new policy and would “challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

Jets chairman Christopher Johnson told Newsday after the vote that his players would be free to take a knee or protest in another way during the anthem without fear of reprisals from the team.

All Jets players stood in the 2017 season during the anthem, with them, coaches and Johnson interlocking arms.

“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.”

With Bob Glauber and AP

New York Sports