NFL Players Union files to challenge league’s new National Anthem policy
Carol Ozemhoya | OW Contributor | 7/13/2018, 10:26 a.m.
NFL QB Colin Kaepernick probably had no club how big a can of worms he was opening a couple years ago when he refused to stand during the National Anthem as a San Francisco 49ers player. Over time, many other players took up his cause of protesting the slaying of Black men by police officers. Reaction from the owners was mixed, while many non-white players – including highly regarded white player Aaron Rodgers – supported their fellow players’ protest. At its annual meeting, the NFL owners voted – not unanimously – to install a policy that said if players were on the field during the National Anthem, they had to stand but had the option to wait off the field if they didn’t want to stand. Now the NFL Players Association has officially filed a grievance against the new policy. The players union announced the challenge on Twitter, with a statement that said the new policy is “inconsistent” with the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement and “infringes on player rights.” A group of players, led by Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, eventually reached a compromised with the NFL in which the league promised to put money toward criminal justice causes the players supported. Though not all of the protesting players supported the agreement, it largely brought the demonstrations to an end ― no player kneeled or otherwise protested during the NFL playoffs last season, reports the Huffington Post. But NFL owners still rushed through the new policy, largely in an ill-fated effort to placate a president who called for the firing of “son of a bitch” players who protested. Trump also has repeatedly used those players and other Black athletes as a racist ploy to rally support among his base. The president was unsatisfied with the new policy and has continued to criticize the rules and the NFL at campaign-style rallies. The NFLPA criticized the new policy immediately, saying that NFL owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell “chose not to consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy’.” Kaepernick, who has not played in the NFL since the end of the 2016 season, filed a grievance against the NFL owners in October 2017, alleging that the league owners colluded to keep him from signing with a new team after the 49ers released him. The NFL PA filed a similar grievance in May on behalf of former 49ers safety Eric Reid, who joined Kaepernick’s protests during the 2016 season and continued them last year but has yet to sign with a team for the 2018 season. According to the union’s statement, it will not pursue immediate litigation against the league. Instead, representatives from the NFL and NFLPA will now hold “confidential discussions” in hopes of finding a solution to the anthem grievance.