Under the Miami Dolphins’ team policy, players who protest the national anthem on the field could face fines and/or suspensions for up to four games, according to a new report from The Associated Press.
The wire service cites an internal team document, not released to the public, that was provided to the AP by an anonymous source. Only one sentence in the nine-page document addresses the anthem.
“It classifies anthem protests under a large list of ‘conduct detrimental to the club,’ all of which could lead to a paid or unpaid suspension, a fine or both,” the AP writes. The policy was issued this week, the AP says.
A team source tells NPR’s Tom Goldman that all NFL teams were required to submit rules about the anthem before players reported to training camp — which for the Dolphins was on Wednesday. The source indicated that the team has not made a final decision about how to handle anthem protests.
“We will address this issue once the season starts,” the source said. “All options are still open.”
In May, the NFL announced a new policy that requires athletes and staff to “stand and show respect” during the anthem, at least if they are located on the field. Protests in the locker room are not prohibited.
Multiple players, inspired by former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, had been kneeling during the anthem as a silent protest against police brutality against people of color.
The league’s policy did not define any punishments for any individual players who protest anyway — instead, it said teams would be fined. Punishments for individuals would be up to their teams.
Before the AP’s new report, no details were known about any team’s policy. It is still not clear whether any other teams have similar policies.
On Twitter, many sportswriters and high-profile fans quickly denounced the idea of potentially suspending a player for a protest.
Mike Freeman, who writes about the NFL for Bleacher Report, called the policy a “disgrace.”
Lindsey Ok, who blogs about the Baltimore Ravens, said she “[w]ould not hate it if the entire Miami Dolphins team protested and then they’d have to backtrack because they’re not gonna suspend the entire team for 4 games.”
In a widely shared tweet, Mina Kimes, a senior writer for ESPN, pointed out that a four-game suspension would be a harsher punishment than Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston received for groping a female Uber driver.
Chris Kluwe — the former Vikings punter who believes his football career was cut short because of his advocacy on behalf of gay rights — also issued a biting retort on Twitter.
“Good to see the NFL owners remain committed to employing rapists, domestic abusers, and bigots, but won’t hesitate to suspend players for speaking out on human rights,” he wrote.
But Adam Beasley, the Miami Herald‘s Dolphins reporter, said he would be “stunned” if the maximum punishment of a four-game suspension was ever actually enforced.
Shortly after the leaguewide policy was first announced, the NFL Players Association filed a grievance against the league on behalf of players, saying the policy “infringes on players rights.”