The Miami Dolphins have announced they will fine and potentially suspend players for protesting during the national anthem. This is a terrible idea.
If you are trying to take attention away from something, pouring gasoline on it while waving to a crowd of people is a bad idea. Enter the Miami Dolphins.
Earlier this offseason, the NFL enacted it’s national anthem policy, which in essence tells players to either stay in the locker room during the song, or to stand at attention on the sidelines. Anything else is going to result in a fine.
The Dolphins, apparently feeling commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t go far enough, are enacting their own policy. Any player who protests on the sideline will not only be subject to a fine, but up to a four-game suspension.
While owner Stephen Ross has the right to make that policy, it flies in the face of what he and the league want to accomplish. The NFL would love for the anthem controversy to go away, something it was beginning to do before President Trump called the protesting players “sons of bitches” prior to Week 3 of the 2017 season. Since then, the country has been embroiled in staunch debate.
For Ross, the problem is he’s in the business of winning football games. What to do if Ryan Tannehill drops to a knee come Week 1, and then continues doing it? Same for any other high-impact player. It would cripple the Dolphins to sit them for any games, but at the same time, Ross would need to keep strong on his policy or look overrun by his players.
And therein lies the problem that the NFL has. It hasn’t worked with the players to find a real solution. The league has decided to use brawn and its position of power, which has only stoked the anguish. Instead of sitting down with player-picked representatives of all 32 clubs, Goodell and the owners imposed a new, league-wide anthem policy. The reaction was an NFLPA grievance that is still playing out.
As it so often does, the NFL has turned what should have been a short-lived issue into a national debate and referendum. Ross and the Dolphins are the first team to put out their own policy, but it won’t be shocking if others follow suit in short order, despite that being against their best interests.
The league feels the only way to stop the protests is to shout down the players. In reality, it’s to embrace them and the struggles of their time, something the NFL is either too verbose, or too ignorant to do.