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UPDATED: NFL suspends new anthem rules, working with players to find ‘solution to the anthem issue’

Hours after it was revealed that the Miami Dolphins threatened to punish players who protest.

Miami Dolphins players protest police brutality against people of color during the national anthem before a game versus the New York Jets on September 24, 2017. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Miami Dolphins players protest police brutality against people of color during the national anthem before a game versus the New York Jets on September 24, 2017. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Miami Dolphins players who protest during the national anthem will face a four-game suspension and fines from the team. Numerous players across the league have followed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in protesting racial inequality and police brutality by kneeling or raising a fist during the national anthem.

The Associated Press reports the Dolphins’ new team policy was issued earlier in the week, despite owner Stephen Ross’ previous claim that he wouldn’t punish protesting players.

NFL owners unanimously approved a new set of rules regarding conduct during the national anthem in May that requires all team personnel to stand during the national anthem. Last week, the NFL players union filed a grievance challenging those new anthem guidelines. The Dolphins are reportedly attempting to create team guidelines that go further than the NFL’s.

The league’s crackdown on peaceful protests hasn’t deterred all players. Tennessee Titans’ defensive end Jurrell Casey said he will continue protesting during the anthem on Wednesday:

“I’m going to take my fine. It is what it is, I ain’t going to let them stop me from doing what I want to do. If they want to have these battles between players and organizations, this is the way it’s going to be.”

Jets chairman Christopher Johnson, the son of President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, has vowed to pay any fines that his players incur for protesting:

“I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players. Do I prefer that they stand? Of course. But I understand if they felt the need to protest. There are some big, complicated issues that we’re all struggling with, and our players are on the front lines. I don’t want to come down on them like a ton of bricks, and I won’t. There will be no club fines or suspensions or any sort of repercussions. If the team gets fined, that’s just something I’ll have to bear.”

Kaepernick started the anthem protests in 2016 to address police brutality against people of color. Trump called Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” at a September 2017 rally and suggested NFL protesters should be removed from the country earlier this year. Despite Trump reportedly pressuring league owners to discipline protesting players, 2017 was the NFL’s most-profitable year.

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ESPN’s Mina Kimes noted that a potential four-game ban for anthem protesters seems especially harsh compared to the NFL’s recent disciplinary efforts.

Update: The NFL and NFLPA released a joint statement on Thursday night announcing that the league’s new anthem guidelines would be put on hold while the two sides try to reach “a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation.”

“The NFL and NFLPA reflect the great values of America, which are repeatedly demonstrated by the many players doing extraordinary work in communities across our country to promote equality, fairness and justice.”