Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins might not punish kneelers at all, team owner suggests in statement

Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen M. Ross on the sidelines before the game as the New York Jets host the Miami Dolphins at Met Life Stadium on Sunday, September 24, 2017. One of his companies is helping back an effort to stop a Florida amendment that would make it harder to expand gambling in Florida, months after the U.S. Supreme Court opened the way for legalized betting nationwide on professional sports.
Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen M. Ross on the sidelines before the game as the New York Jets host the Miami Dolphins at Met Life Stadium on Sunday, September 24, 2017. One of his companies is helping back an effort to stop a Florida amendment that would make it harder to expand gambling in Florida, months after the U.S. Supreme Court opened the way for legalized betting nationwide on professional sports. adiaz@miamiherald.com

A day after the Dolphins created a national stir for seeming open to suspending their players up to four games for protesting during the national anthem, owner Stephen Ross suggested those who kneel might not face punishment from the team at all.

Ross said that the “one-line sentence” regarding the team’s anthem policy that leaked Thursday “was a placeholder” because the league wanted the team’s rule at the start of training camp but “we haven’t made a decision on what we would do, if anything at that point.”

Ross went on to say that he is “pleased” that the NFL decided late Thursday to suspended its anthem policy as the league tries to work out a new one with the NFLPA. Added Ross: “I am passionate about social justice and through the Miami Dolphins of RISE (his anti-racism initiative), will continue to use the power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress.”

The statement capped a whirlwind 24 hours for the Dolphins, who had unwittingly stepped into a national maelstrom over the First Amendment and civil rights. Late Thursday, the league and the NFLPA released a joint statement announcing that the two sides have “come to a standstill agreement” on both the NFL’s policy compelling players to stand during the anthem, and the union’s subsequent grievance.

Players argue they were not included in the discussions on the policy, which stipulates that teams with players that demonstrate during the anthem will be fined. Teams were also given the latitude to punish players for protesting, but not compelled to do so.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the Dolphins might fine or even suspend those that do, but the team later clarified that no decision on that matter has been made. Still, the damage had been done, and the blowback was immediate.

Many criticized the team for what they perceived as a heavy-handed policy — even though in truth the Dolphins were only codifying what the league had mandated. For now, all team and league discipline will be on pause — which is probably wise, seeing as this issue remains unresolved two weeks shy of the start of the preseason.

“No new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing,” the statement read.

A day after the news surfaced and less than a week before the Dolphins will have their full team together to start training camp, Dolphins coach Adam Gase appeared on WQAM’s Joe Rose Show but didn’t provide much insight when asked about his thoughts on on the matter and what he plans to tell the team before training camp begins next week. “Well, our guys aren’t going to be here until next Wednesday,” Gase said Friday morning. “Right now, we’re with the rookies. The quarterbacks will be in today. With the NFL and NFLPA discussing what’s going on and how they’re dealing with everything moving forward, that’s really going to be for those guys right now. Really, we’re going to keep getting ready for training camp.”

Miami Herald sportwriter Jordan McPherson contributed to this report.

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