DAVIE — If you thought you’d heard the last of the NFL’s anthem controversy, think again.
The NFL issued a decree Wednesday saying players on the field had to stand for the anthem, which by Wednesday evening was triggering angry reaction from some players.
One of the more tame responses was from Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills, the lone holdover on the team who kneeled last season. Stills simply retweeted Shannon Sharpe, who wrote, “@NFL, this is why players are kneeling and raising fists. It’s never been about the flag, anthem or the military.” Attached to Sharpe’s tweet was a Sports Illustrated video showing the arrest video of Sterling Brown of the NBA’s Bucks. Milwaukee police used a taser on him.
Defensive lineman Chris Long of the Philadelphia Eagles lashed out at the NFL, saying via Twitter that the policy approved by owners was motivated by a “fear of a diminished bottom line.” Referring to President Donald Trump, Long called it “fear of a president turning his base against a corporation.”
“This is not patriotism,” wrote Long, who has participated in the protests. “Don’t get it confused. These owners don’t love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve it. It also lets you, the fan, know where our league stands.”
Signifying the fight is far from over, Long concluded “I will continue to be committed to affecting change with my platform. I’m someone who’s always looked at the anthem as a declaration of ideals, including the right to peaceful protest. Our league continues to fall short on this issue.”
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins tweeted, “Everyone loses when voices get stifled. While I disagree with this decision, I will not let it silence me or stop me from fighting. The national conversation around race in America that NFL players forced over the past 2 years will persist as we continue to use our voices, our time and our money to create a more fair and just criminal justice system, end police brutality and foster better educational and economic opportunities for communities of color and those struggling in this country.
“For me, this has never been about taking a knee, raising a fist or anyone’s patriotism but doing what we can to effect real change for real people. #thefightcontinues”
Michael Thomas, the Dolphins’ former special teams captain who joined the New York Giants via free agency, sent two tweets Wednesday expressing his displeasure. Thomas, who also kneeled to protest social injustice, retweeted the NFL Players Association’s statement criticizing the policy and pointing out that the league did not consult with the union first. The NFLPA said it plans to review the policy “and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”
Thomas also retweeted columnist Shaun King, who asked if the NFL will now “effectively ban” Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid “now that they have banned taking a knee … or will they allow these men to earn a living back in the league now that they’ve banned their chosen form of protest?” King concluded, “A grave injustice either way.”
Unrest has cropped up from within the NFL itself. The league originally said the policy was unanimously approved by the 32 owners, but the San Francisco 49ers abstained and a co-owner of the New York Jets said he would pay any fines accrued by his players under the rule.
The policy states that players and league personnel on the field during the anthem must stand and respect the flag and the anthem. Those who don’t want to stand for the anthem must remain in the locker room or away from the field. Teams have the option of crafting additional rules as long as they don’t conflict with the NFL’s overall policy.
1. Can clubs now ask potential signees what their anthem intentions are?
2. Can clubs force the issue with their own rules that make it difficult if not impossible for players to return to the locker room after warmups?
3. What if players raise a fist during the anthem?
In an analysis for NFL.com, veteran pro football writer Judy Battista wrote, “In their desire to create a policy that would make clear that the NFL and players respect the flag and keep the league ahead of any future controversies — especially with midterm elections looming — the owners left so much gray area that everyone might be susceptible anyway.”
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