NFL bans kneeling on field during anthem; Miami Dolphins can adopt additional rules

New Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson said he’ll wait until he hears from coach Adam Gase before saying how he’ll react to the NFL’s new anthem policy. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — The NFL has spoken with a policy designed to end the bitter controversy over national anthem protests.

Now it’s up to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and coach Adam Gase to enforce the new rules and add a wrinkle or two of their own.

NFL owners, meeting in Atlanta, voted Wednesday to require all team and league personnel who are on the field during the anthem to “stand and show respect” for the flag and the song. Those who choose not to stand for the anthem can stay in the locker room or away from the field, although each club can adopt its own additional rules, provided they don’t conflict with the overall policy.

Violators can be fined by the league.

The Dolphins have had multiple players kneeling during the anthem over the past two seasons to protest social injustice. Of those players, only receiver Kenny Stills remains on the roster. But the Dolphins have added receiver Albert Wilson, who kneeled in the past as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Stills was not made available to the media Wednesday.

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“I’m pretty sure coach is going to have his say-so on it,” Wilson said shortly after leaving the practice field.

Wilson was reluctant to say much more because he hadn’t had a chance to read the entire statement from the league, and he wanted to hear from Gase.

“Once coach gets with us on it it, I’ll pretty much have something else to say after that,” Wilson said.

Dolphins players kneel during the national anthem before their game against the Carolina Panthers last season. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Appearing at a news conference as the meetings wound down, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “We want people to be respectful to the national anthem. We want people to stand, that’s all personnel, and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That’s something we think we owe. We have been very sensitive in making sure we give players choices, but we do believe that that moment is important and one we are going to focus on.”

Ross and the Dolphins did not issue an immediate statement Wednesday.

The NFL Players Association did have something to say, pointing out that it was not consulted by the league as it formed the policy.

“Our union will review the new ‘policy’ and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement,” the NFLPA said in a statement.

New York Jets co-owner Christopher Johnson said he’ll pay any fines his players may receive because of the anthem policy.

The Dolphins have largely given players freedom to express themselves, except for a brief period in which players were told if they wanted to protest, they had to do it in the locker room or tunnel — much like the new policy states. That stance didn’t last long because players said shuttling back and forth from the field to the locker room during pregame created logistical issues within a short period of time.

At the height of the controversy, President Donald Trump advocated firing any player who didn’t stand during the anthem, which angered some kneeling players, including Michael Thomas, now of the New York Giants.

“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic,” the NFL wrote. “This is not and was never the case.”

The league said it would continue to work with players “to strengthen our communities and advance social justice,” citing a “unique platform” the NFL enjoys in this country.

Colin Kaepernick, then quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, launched the controversy by becoming the first to kneel during the anthem. He was joined by safety Eric Reid, and both remain unsigned today. Reid recently filed a collusion grievance against the league.

Former Dolphins players who protested have also included tight end Julius Thomas, running back Arian Foster and linebacker Jelani Jenkins.

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