Less than two months after establishing a controversial national anthem policy, the NFL hit the pause button.
On Thursday night, the NFL and NFL Players Association released a joint statementin which they declared that “no new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing.” The two sides will continue to work together to find a “solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation.”
The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue. 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.
The NFL and NFLPA reflect the great values of America, which are repeatedly demonstrated by the many players doing extraordinary work in communities across our country to promote equality, fairness and justice.
Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation.
According to Mark Maske of The Washington Post (and pointed out by many other reporters), the anthem policy enacted in May has been paused. Maske also reported that the NFLPA’s grievance, which it filed after the NFL passed its new policy, is also on hold.
The NFL’s new policy was created in the aftermath of the past two seasons, which saw countless players peacefully protest racial injustice during the playing of the national anthem by taking a knee, remaining seated or raising a fist in the air — a movement that began with Colin Kaepernick during the 2016 preseason and carried on without him even though he remained unsigned during the 2017 season and is still without a team today.
According to ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, league executives passed the policy without holding an official vote while at least two owners — Raiders owner Mark Davis and 49ers CEO Jed York — abstained from voting. NFL Media’s Jim Trotter reported that before the meetings, there were 8-10 owners who privately expressed support for keeping the league’s anthem policy “as is.”
The policy, which has been widely criticized by players around the league, restricted players and team/league personnel from protesting during the anthem, while allowing for those who don’t want to stand for the anthem to remain in the locker room. At least one player — Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey — has already vowed to protest during the anthem. Under the policy, teams — not players — would be fined for an infraction while teams were free to create their own system of disciplining their players that broke the policy.
On Thursday, news leaked that the Dolphins had included protesting during the anthem on their list of issues that fall under the umbrella of conduct detrimental to the team, which left the door open for the team to suspend protesting players up to four games, though multiple reports characterized that course of action as unlikely. Hours later, the NFL and NFLPA released its joint statement to put a hold on the league-wide policy.