Miami Dolphins owner: No decision on anthem protest discipline

Dolphins had submitted NFL policy with up to four-game suspension

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross felt a need to publicly clarify the franchise’s stance on potential punishments for any on-field protest of the national anthem.

“We haven’t made a decision on what we would do, if anything, at that point,” Ross said in a statement released by the Dolphins on Friday.

It was first revealed by the Associated Press on Thursday that the Dolphins submitted a policy to the NFL which included a suspension of up to four games for any on-field protesting.

But Ross said the Dolphins only intended to use the language as a “placeholder” for any final decision. In a bit of unfortunate timing for Miami, the club had been required to submit a policy before rookies reported to training camp.

The NFL quickly realized the leaking of Miami’s verbiage had created a bit of a firestorm. And so the NFL and NFL Players Association announced that a strict league-mandated policy of honoring the anthem was now on hold and conversations were ongoing.

It would have been better for the Dolphins if that had been announced before Miami submitted its policy, as required by the league.

“I’m pleased that the NFL and NFLPA are taking a pause to figure out a resolution on this issue,” Ross said.

Nobody seems happy about the NFL’s announcement that players shall stand during the national anthem or stay in the locker room. If a player were to protest, his club would be subject to a fine. And, thus, teams were asked to set their own discipline guidelines, if any, for their players.

[COMMENTARY: New national anthem policy a low point for free speech in the NFL]

This put the clubs and the players in an awkward situation. So the Dolphins included a possible maximum punishment in their detrimental conduct rules. The CBA permits suspensions of up to four games for a player who has participated in conduct detrimental to the club.

So that was the genesis of the four-game phrasing. In reality, it seems extremely unlikely that the Dolphins or any other club would actually suspend a player four games, or perhaps even suspend a player at all, for protesting social injustice.

While Ross clearly would prefer that players stand, as he sees kneeling as ineffective messaging, it’s ironic that he is deeply financially vested in positive social-cause platforms, including an organization he founded.

“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.”

[RELATED: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ anthem policy influenced by Donald Trump]

There is a pressure now on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to facilitate a solution that appeases players, owners, fans and advertisers. That is not an easy task.

One thing the NFL and NFLPA surely agree on is that the polarizing nature of the controversial issue has cast a negative shadow over the most popular sport in the United States. All involved would prefer some type of agreement and a show of unity — as soon as possible.

“The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue,” a joint statement released late Thursday read, in part. “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.”

[COMMENTARY: Policy can’t make anthem controversy, protesters disappear for NFL, Dolphins]

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