NFLPA Releases Statement Defending Players' Right to Demonstrate Next Season

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2018

Some San Francisco 49ers players kneel during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
John Hefti/Associated Press

The NFL Players Association released a statement Tuesday affirming the right of NFL players to continue protesting or demonstrating during the national anthem next season should they so desire:

The statement comes after Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross backtracked Tuesday on his comments about all Dolphins players' standing for the anthem during the 2018 season, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

On Monday, Ross said "All of our players will be standing," when the anthem discussion was broached, per Christian Red of the New York Daily News. But he walked those comments back on Tuesday, according to Florio:

"I have no intention of forcing our players to stand during the anthem and I regret that my comments have been misconstrued. I’ve shared my opinion with all our players: I'm passionate about the cause of social justice and I feel that kneeling is an ineffective tactic that alienates more people than it enlists. I know our players care about the military and law enforcement too because I've seen the same players who are fighting for social justice engaging positively with law enforcement and the military. I care passionately that the message of social justice resonates far and wide and I will continue to support and fund efforts for those who fight for equality for all."

The Houston Texans, meanwhile, denied a report suggesting they wouldn't consider signing players who had demonstrated during the anthem in the past, per Des Bieler and Cindy Boren of the Washington Post.

Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle reported on March 3 that the Texans "aren't interested in any players who participated in pregame kneel-downs in protest of police brutality," adding that there was "no directive within the organization" to avoid such players but it was understood that's how the team would proceed.

Solomon also described Texans' owner Bob McNair as "racially tone deaf often enough that many believe race is a significant factor in how the team runs its business" and added that "there are many who believe if McNair could field a team with all-white, all-conforming all-pro talent, he would."

The Texans called the report "categorically false and without merit," per Bieler and Boren.

The two incidents are the latest examples of the long-running and intense debate over players protesting police brutality and racial discrimination by kneeling or demonstrating during the national anthem, one that often involved President Donald Trump over the past year.

The NFL, however, does not have any rules in place mandating all players stand during the national anthem, and the NFLPA's latest statement seemed to serve as a reminder that the players would not agree to or adhere to such a mandate if the league office attempted to create one or the owners tried to collectively bargain for one.

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