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Dolphins will reportedly punish players who protest during anthem, ensuring controversy won't go away

Scott McLaughlin
July 19, 2018 - 5:47 pm
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If you were wondering what the latest turn in the NFL's national anthem controversy was going to be, here it is. The Miami Dolphins have issued a team policy stating that players who protest during the national anthem could be suspended for up to four games, according to the Associated Press.

The NFL issued a new policy in May dictating that a player must stay in the locker room if he doesn't plan to stand for the national anthem, with the player's team getting fined if he kneels on the field. The policy left it up to individual teams to punish players who protest as they see fit.

New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson stepped up in the aftermath and said he would not discipline players who protest and would pay the fines if they do, but few other owners have publicly outlined how they plan to handle any future protests yet.

The reported Dolphins policy falls under a "Proper Anthem Conduct" section of the team's new nine-page discipline document. It classifies protests during the anthem as "conduct detrimental to the club" that could result in a fine, a paid or unpaid suspension, or both.

The NFL's handling of this issue this offseason has been sloppy to say the least, as players were not consulted on the policy handed down in May, and there wasn't even a formal vote with owners on it. It leaves tons of grey area, including not clearly defining what qualifies as a "protest," and puts teams on the spot to try to find something even remotely resembling a good approach.

It also breathed new life into the controversy in the first place, as the number of players who were protesting during the anthem had dwindled to fewer than 20 (in a league of nearly 1,700) by the end of last season. And now the Dolphins' policy likely won't sit well with many players, either.

The May policy was widely seen as an effort to blunt President Donald Trump's criticism of the league, but that was obviously never going to happen, which has been borne out in Trump's continued attacks on the league since then, including saying that staying in the locker room would be even worse than kneeling on the field.

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