What we know so far about the Dolphins' national anthem policy

Protesting during the national anthem could result in a suspension up to four games for Miami Dolphins players, according to the team’s list of conduct detrimental.

A nine-page discipline document obtained by the Associated Press reportedly contains a brief section on “Proper Anthem Conduct.” It includes the possibility of “a paid or unpaid suspension, a fine or both” for players who participate in protests during the national anthem.

In May, the NFL passed a new policy that gives players the option to stay in the locker room during the playing of the anthem. However, teams are subject to fines from the league if any player on the field doesn’t “stand and show proper respect.”

Players cannot be fined or suspended by the NFL for their actions during the anthem, but teams are free to adopt their own policies and punishments for protesting players.

The Dolphins are the first team with a reported policy that could punish players. Shortly after the passage of the league’s national anthem policy, New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson told Newsday that the team wouldn’t fine any Jets players who choose to protest in 2018.

The Dolphins’ policy is the first to go public that seems to have the opposite effect of the Jets’ policy, and institutes punishments for protesting players. But according to NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington, it’s not a policy set in stone. It’s just a list of a potential violation because Miami hasn’t yet decided how to handle protests during the national anthem.

In the discipline document obtained by the Associated Press, protests during the anthem are listed as “conduct detrimental” — something that can result in a maximum fine of one week’s salary or a maximum suspension of four games.

That harsh of a punishment seems extremely unlikely.

A source told Pro Football Talk that “all options are on the table” regarding punishments for protestors.

For now, it appears handling of protestors is still a work in progress for the team. Neither the NFL nor the Dolphins have commented on the Associated Press report yet.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has flip-flopped on protests. At first, the Dolphins owner was a supporter of protesting players. Then, he took a hard stance curbing protests after Donald Trump got involved.

In March, Ross told the New York Daily News, “All of our players will be standing” in 2018.

“Initially, I totally supported the players in what they were doing,” said Ross. “It’s America and people should be able to really speak about their choices.”

But Ross also said that he likes President Donald Trump, and felt that the president’s tweets turned the protests into a debate about respecting the flag and military.

“When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against kneeling,” Ross said. “I like Donald (Trump). I don’t support everything that he says. Overall, I think he was trying to make a point, and his message became what kneeling was all about. From that standpoint, that is the way the public is interpreting it. So I think that’s really incumbent upon us to adopt that. That’s how, I think, the country now is interpreting the kneeling issue.”

A day later, he walked back on his comments.

If the Dolphins have adopted a policy that fines or suspends players who protest, it’d be another change of heart from Ross.

Three Miami players protested throughout 2017. Wide receiver Kenny Stills, safety Michael Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas protested throughout the 2017 season, although the three stayed in the locker room for four games in October after the team adopted a new policy that would punish players who protested on the field.

The policy was eventually relaxed because the players reportedly told Adam Gase that it was affecting their pregame preparations. Stills, Thomas and Thomas kneeled during the national anthem for the remainder of the year.

Michael Thomas is now a member of the New York Giants after reaching free agency, and Julius Thomas is currently a free agent after he was released in March. Stills is the only member of the trio still on the Dolphins’ roster, although defensive end Robert Quinn joined the team in March via trade. Quinn raised a fist during the playing of the national anthem when he was a member of the Los Angeles Rams in 2017.

This is likely just the beginning. While the Dolphins’ list of potential rules violations is the first to go public, it probably won’t be the last. And the Tennessee Titans are currently dealing with defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who is the first NFL player to say he plans to protest during the national anthem, despite the new policy.

One of the motivations for adopting the national anthem policy in May was to turn focus back to the game. Unsurprisingly, it has seemed to do the opposite.

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