It is almost comical at this point. Almost. Another development on the subject of NFL anthem protests arose on Wednesday when news leaked regarding a Dolphins team policy. The policy in question involves disciplining players for protests during the anthem. This comes after news in May that the NFL would fine teams if players did not stand during the anthem, prohibiting players from taking a knee or sitting during the song.
There’s a lot to unpack here, because the stupidity of the NFL owners never ceases to amaze me. So the only reason that this new policy that was announced in May exists is because: (1) the NFL owners believe that the majority of their fans are too racist to withstand a protest against police brutality and for equal civil rights, (2) they wanted to appease the president of the United States, who kept using the NFL as a talking point at his rallies. But even that did not work, as the president still said the league wasn’t doing enough to stop the anthem protests. He then went further to say that players who elect to stay in the locker room during anthem maybe “shouldn’t be in the country.”
This new Dolphins policy comes with a fun little add-on punishment for those players who do not show “proper anthem conduct” aka, protest for equal civil rights for Black Americans during the anthem: players could be hit with a fine, a four game suspension, or both. Four games. Four games for kneeling during our nation’s most popular drinking song turned national anthem. Let’s compare some other notable NFL suspensions to this proposed policy. Ray Rice was suspended for TWO games after video surfaced of him knocking his then fiancée out cold during a domestic dispute in the elevator. Giants kicker Josh Brown was suspended for ONE game after domestic violence charges surfaced for incidents against his wife. Jameis Winston just received a THREE game suspension for sexually assaulting an Uber driver. These are presented without anymore comment.
Per reports from the Associated Press, the proposed policy lists the anthem protests as “conduct detrimental to the club.” It is a proverbial line drawn in the sand. Ownership of the Miami Dolphins are saying with this protest, “we value the prosperity of the business and pleasing our fans and president over the value of your protest.” That is their prerogative.
There are multiple issues with this. First of all, there is no appeasing the president. As we saw in May, he won’t be happy until every player that protested has been kicked out of the country. Second of all, NFL fans have made it clear that the issue is not the protest itself, but the meaning behind the protest. When NFL teams tried to put up a fake show of solidarity, fans booed them even before the anthem began.
What the Dolphins have done is help to dig the hole that the owners were in even deeper. The NFLPA had already filed a grievance against the league’s policy of punishing teams (and to a greater extent players) for their anthem protests. This leak has led to the NFL planning to freeze the policy. What they should really do is fully do away with the policy. There is no winning this “battle” in the public eye. The more actions that they take on this anthem issue can only lead to two things: (1) complete alienation of Black athletes who feel as though they are being silenced by the policy protests (they are), (2) or alienation of the racist fans who don’t want to hear about concerns of social injustice. Personally I have no problem with alienating the racist fans, but if most of the NFL fanbase is that, then I guess the owners would have a problem with that.
It will be very interesting to see in the coming weeks how the NFL decides to move forward. I for one, will be watching to see how badly they can mess up. If they decide to continue line themselves up against protests against police brutality, social injustice, and racial inequality, that’s a bold move. Let’s see if it pays off.