The NFL has gone to great lengths to try to put a stop to player protests during the national anthem and, in May, league owners unanimously approved a new policy that explicitly makes kneeling or sitting during the anthem against league rules. The teams themselves are considered to be the responsible party under the new rule and an individual franchises will be fined “if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” League owners’ responses to player protests have varied; the New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson, for example, said while he prefers the team’s players stand, if someone chooses to protest, the club will cover the fine. “If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players,” Johnson said in May. “I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players.” The Miami Dolphins have taken a different approach and, according to its new player conduct guidelines reported by the Associated Press, the franchise will impose a punishment of up to four games for players who refuse to stand for the anthem.
The measure comes via the franchise’s new player discipline manual, which includes a single line addressing “Proper Anthem Conduct.” Protesting the anthem is classified as “conduct detrimental to the club,” which could result in a fine and/or a suspension for a player. The Dolphins are owned by real estate magnate Stephen Ross, who said in March, before the new NFL policy was announced, that while he supported the players’ right to protest at first, he believed the tenor of the protests changed and became a more explicit slight of the military. “All of our players will be standing,” told the New York Daily News at the time.
Update, July 19, 2018: The NFL and NFLPA, in what appears to be a related development to the AP’s report on the Dolphins, announced Thursday that all new anthem-related rules will be frozen, and not enforced, until the players’ union and the league resolve the grievance filed by the NFLPA over the league’s new anthem policy.