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Dolphins owner: Actually, we haven’t decided whether to levy anthem penalties

Times wires

The NFL can't seem to get away from the divisive national anthem issue.

The latest developments this week assure that, despite the league's wishes, the debate about how to handle players who kneel during the anthem to protest police violence against minorities and economic inequality will continue to dominate the NFL discussion.

Here's what we knew as of Friday, with training camps opening in the next week.

What’s going on with the anthem policy now?

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Friday that the team had not decided what penalties, if any, it would levy against players who protested during the anthem, a day after the Associated Press reported that Miami had produced a document saying anthem protests are "conduct detrimental to the club" and could lead to a suspension or fine.

Ross said the "one-line sentence" on anthem protests was just a "placeholder" in Miami's annual discipline notice to the league that had to be submitted before rookies reported to training camp.

Teams were not required to create any anthem policies when they submitted their annual discipline notices, the Associated Press reported.

After the Miami document was publicized, the NFL and its players union announced that they had agreed to hold off "for the next several weeks" on the anthem policy the NFL instituted in May while the sides discuss the matter and try to come to a resolution both can live with.

The union had filed a grievance over the policy, arguing that the league had violated the collective bargaining agreement.

Friday night, President Donald Trump — who has bashed the league over the protests and said the new NFL policy does not go far enough — wrote on Twitter that the first time a player kneels, he should be ejected from the game and the second time he should be out for the season without pay.

"Isn't it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand," Trump wrote.

What is the policy?

In May, the NFL announced that players on the field would be required to stand respectfully during the anthem. It gave players the option of remaining in the locker room. (Trump has also said that players who stay in the locker room maybe "shouldn't be in the country.")

If players violate the rule, teams can be fined, and the teams would then have the option of disciplining the players further. This creates a situation in which 32 teams can develop 32 policies in real time. (Bucs spokesman Nelson Luis said Thursday he was not aware of any team-specific anthem policy in place for Tampa Bay.)

The NFL policy was prompted by a handful of players, led by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who have knelt during the anthem over the past two seasons.

What’s the path to compromise?

Officials for the league and the union declined to comment to the Associated Press on Friday about how they would chart a way forward with the first preseason game less than two weeks away.

Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, a member of the union's ruling executive committee, told the Washington Post that arrangements were being made for face-to-face meetings in which players would participate.
He said he was optimistic about a resolution before the season.

"Even on the ownership side, there were different comfort levels with the new rule," he said. "As players, we don't want anything to change. We want it the way it is now. But we don't want to live in a world where everything depends on the views of that particular team's owner. We'll try to come up with something that makes sense to everybody."

Have we seen the end of protests?

Titans star defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said this week he planned to continue protesting and was willing to pay a fine to do so. He had raised a fist during the anthem last season. The Titans responded by saying they wanted to talk with Casey but did not immediately threaten him with discipline.

What’s up with Kaepernick and Eric Reid?

After he was seen as a ringleader of the nascent protests in 2016, Kaepernick couldn't find a team for 2017. He filed a grievance charging the teams with colluding against him. That process is moving slowly, with depositions being taken from league and team officials. Safety Eric Reid, another protester, filed a grievance in May alleging that collusion has kept him from getting a job for this season. He's a free agent after spending five seasons with the 49ers. He is also a key part of the union's grievance against the new rules.

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