The NFL imposed a new National Anthem policy in May, and the NFL Players Association is now challenging that policy through the grievance policy. The NFLPA and management have also agreed to begin confidential discussions to figure out a solution proceeding any potential litigation.
On May 23rd, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that league owners had agreed to a new policy regarding the Anthem. The new policy requires, “all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” For those who do not want to stand for the Anthem, they may stay in the locker room until after the Anthem has been performed. The policy stated that the league could fine teams for personnel violations, and teams could in turn discipline players and team officials for violations of the policy.
The policy was instituted without consulting with the NFLPA, and I’m surprised it took the union this long to file a grievance. The league relationship with the union requires certain working conditions and terms be negotiated as part of the collective bargaining process. I’m guessing the owners might argue this falls under personal conduct, and is precluded from bargaining, but there is no word yet from the league.
When the NFL announced the policy, they touted it as a compromise given the issues that arose from players choosing to kneel or otherwise signify protest while the Anthem was playing. However, it was mostly a compromise between the liberal and conservative owners, not between owners and players. And while the owners did come up with a policy, it was has not really helped in their attempts to prevent Donald Trump from lambasting them at his campaign rallies.
The first game of the 2018 season is the Hall of Fame Game on August 2nd. That will be followed by a full slate of preseason games the week of August 9th. The league and the NFLPA have a lot to figure out, and given the state of their relationship, I‘m skeptical this does not end up in court.