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After Miami Dolphins protest punishment leaks, NFL and NFLPA put anthem policy on hold

The NFL has put its two-month-old national anthem policy on pause while the league and the player’s union work to find a resolution to a grievance filed in court this month about the new policy forcing players to stand for the anthem.

The announcement came hours after an Associated Press report cited a nine-page disciplinary document submitted to the NFL by the Dolphins that includes a section called “Proper Anthem Conduct.” In it, anthem protests are listed as conduct “detrimental to the club,” which could lead to a paid or unpaid suspension, a fine or both. Dolphins owner Steve Ross said Friday the punishment policy submitted to the league was a “placeholder.”

The Dolphins’ document comes after the NFL decided in May that players would have to stand during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” while they were on the field. Players who did not want to stand may remain in the locker room during the song.

The NFL left it up to teams to determine how they would handle punishment for players and coaches who violated this new rule. The Dolphins, which had rookies report on Wednesday and open training camp next Thursday, were the first to submit their possible punishment.

The new league rules were challenged this month in a grievance by the players union, the NFLPA, and now both sides are back at the table working to find a solution to avoid litigation.

“No new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing,” the NFLPA statement read. “The NFL and NFLPA reflect the great values of America, which are repeatedly demonstrated by the many players doing extraordinary work in the communities across our country to promote equality, fairness and justice.”

The Dolphins are one of three teams that have had multiple players protesting during the anthem for the past two seasons.

“We were asked to submit a form to the NFL on our overall discipline policy prior to the start of the rookie report date. 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 said Friday in a statement released by the team. “I’m pleased that the NFL and NFLPA are taking a pause to figure out a resolution on this issue. I am passionate about social justice, and through the Miami Dolphins and creation of RISE, will continue to use the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress.”

During an interview with the 560 WQAM on Friday morning Dolphins coach Adam Gase sidestepped the changes made to the team’s punishment list, which included anthem protests.

“With the NFL and NFLPA discussing what’s going on and how they are dealing with everything moving forward, we’re just going to keep getting ready for training camp,” Gase said.

The issue has dominated headlines over the past two seasons, caused division and alienated some fans.

The protests began in 2016 before a 49ers exhibition game, when Colin Kaepernick took a knee in San Francisco as a push for social justice and campaign for racial equality and came in reaction to incidents of police brutality. Two years later it has become one of the most divisive issues in sports because some claim protesting during the anthem is unpatriotic.

Ross, who initially supported his players protesting during the anthem back in 2016, has provided contradicting stands regarding the protests. Last year he stood in locked arms with the players before a 20-6 loss to the New York Jets as players protested against the comments made by President Donald Trump, who labeled protesting players “sons of b——” during a speech.

However, Ross has consistently pointed out that the cause for the protest has been hijacked by those claiming its unpatriotic.

“I do understand that the message has been changed,” Stills said in May, referring to protesting players being labeled unpatriotic. “But I also understand that with the NFL being the most-watched sport in the United States and one of the most-watched sports in the world, they have an opportunity to kind of set the bar, set the standard to change the narrative and write the narrative however they want it to.

“I just feel like from the beginning, if the narrative would have been set one way and the league would have had our backs and really put the message out there the right way and tried to educate people on the work that we’re doing and why we’re doing it, we might be in a different place than we are right now.”

In March, Ross said he would not make players stand during the anthem, refuting a report out of New York where he was recorded saying that the league would.

“I have no intention of forcing our players to stand during the anthem and I regret that my comments have been misconstrued,’’ Ross said in that statement to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “I’ve shared my opinion with all our players: I’m passionate about the cause of social justice and I feel that kneeling is an ineffective tactic that alienates more people than it enlists.

“I know our players care about the military and law enforcement too because I’ve seen the same players who are fighting for social justice engaging positively with law enforcement and the military,” said Ross, who has donated millions to the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, an organization he started with the goal of using sports to create social change. “I care passionately that the message of social justice resonates far and wide and I will continue to support and fund efforts for those who fight for equality for all.”

The NFL and the Players Coalition finalized a partnership last fall that runs through 2023 and dedicates close to $90 million for efforts and programs combating social inequality. The partnership aims to work closely with players, teams and other groups in a new and expanded community improvement program that was agreed to in principle during the Fall League Meeting.

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