NFL Anthem Protest: New Policy on Hold After Talks with Players' Union

With just under two months until the start of the NFL season, the league and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) are working closely to find a solution for the issue concerning the national anthem.

The NFL has been embroiled in political controversy since 2016, when then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted to kneel rather than stand during the national anthem as an act of silent protest against social and racial injustice.

Earlier this month, the NFLPA filed an official grievance over the league's new anthem policy, which stated players would have to either stand on the sideline during the national anthem, or wait in the locker room.

P!nk sings the national anthem prior to Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles at Minneapolis's U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4. Rob Carr/Getty Images

However, in a joint statement released Thursday, the NFL and the NFLPA struck a more conciliatory tone, indicating they had discussed the issue in recent weeks and were working on a solution.

"The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue," the statement read.

"In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA's grievance and on the NFL's anthem policy. No new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing.

"The NFL and NFLPA reflect the great values of America, which are repeatedly demonstrated by the many players doing extraordinary work in communities across our country to promote equality, fairness and justice.

"Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation."

Kaepernick's act drew a mixed response within the sport and outside the NFL's sphere, most notably from President Donald Trump, who urged franchise owners to fire athletes who chose not to stand for the national anthem.

It also served as an example for a number of other NFL players to follow. Earlier this week, Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said he would continue to protest during the national anthem this season, despite the threat of fines and penalties.

That prompted Titans president and CEO Steve Underwood to suggest that Casey, who last season raised a fist as the anthem concluded, had not properly understood the league's new rules about protesting.

"We think there may be some misunderstanding on his part," Underwood said during a board meeting for the local sports authority, as reported by USA Today. "Because the new league policy does not provide anywhere that fines are made against players. If a player doesn't stand, the teams can be fined, but not the players."

On Thursday, the Miami Dolphins also waded into the controversy, indicating they would adopt stronger rules than the NFL's over anthem protests.

According to the Associated Press, the Dolphins circulated a team-discipline document which included a section on "Proper Anthem Conduct" to warn players against protests.

"It classifies anthem protests under a large list of 'conduct detrimental to the club,' all of which could lead to a paid or unpaid suspension, a fine or both," AP reported.