New York — The NFL Players Association filed a grievance with the league on Tuesday challenging its national anthem policy.
The union says that the new policy, which the league imposed without consultation with the NFLPA, is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on players’ rights. The filing met a statute of limitations deadline and will be heard by an independent arbitrator, an NFLPA spokesman said.
In May, the NFL approved its national anthem policy at its owners meetings in Atlanta. The policy allows players to protest during the national anthem by staying in the locker room, but forbids them from sitting or taking a knee if they’re on the field or the sidelines.
Teams will be subject to fines if players don’t comply and will have the option of punishing players.
When the league announced the policy, Commissioner Roger Goodell called it a compromise aimed at putting the focus back on football after a tumultuous year in which television ratings dipped nearly 10 percent; some blamed the protests for such a drop. The union said at that time that it would file a grievance against any change in the collective bargaining agreement.
The union said Tuesday it has proposed having its executive committee talking to the NFL instead of proceeding with litigation. The union said the NFL has agreed to those discussions.
The NFL declined to comment about the union’s action.
In 2016, then-49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick began protesting police brutality and social injustice by kneeling during the national anthem, and the demonstration spread to other players and teams. It became one of the most controversial and sensitive issues in the NFL, with players saying their messages last year were being misconstrued, while others — including President Donald Trump — called them unpatriotic. Trump even said NFL owners should fire any player who refused to stand during the anthem.
Following those comments, more than 200 players protested during the anthem that weekend before the number of protesters dwindled as the season progressed.
“We’re here for a bigger platform,” Raiders tight end Jared Cook said during the spring. “We’re not just athletes. We’re people that live this. It’s people in our neighborhood, it’s people that we grew up with, it’s people that we know who are actually living through these circumstances. So when we speak on it, it’s not like we’re just speaking out of the side of our neck. It’s things that actually touch home and things that we can actually relate to.
“All I have to say is, I just think it’s sad that it’s veered from something that stood for good and the whole narrative has changed into something that’s negative when that was not what it was initially about in the first place.”
The NFL started requiring players to be on the field for the anthem in 2009 the year it signed a marketing deal with the military.
“We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand,” Goodell said at the May meetings, when he dismissed concerns about the lack of union involvement by contending the league met with countless players over the past year.
“We’ve been very sensitive on making sure that we give players choices,” the commissioner added, “but we do believe that moment is an important moment and one that we are going to focus on.”
The league and the Players Coalition have been working in tandem on efforts to support player initiatives in the community and for a variety of social issues. The NFL is committing $90 million over the next seven years to social justice causes in a three-segment plan that involves league players.
Panthers’ past still stands
While new Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper would like the focus to be on his plans for the team’s future, he cannot completely put the franchise’s sullied past behind him.
Tepper has to keep the prominent statue of Panthers’ founder Jerry Richardson outside of the stadium as part of the NFL-record $2.2 billion deal he agreed to in June after Richardson decided to sell the team in December amid reports of sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace.
Tepper said Tuesday when he was introduced as the new owner that he’s “contractually obligated” to keep the 13-foot statue of Richardson standing beside two panthers where it is.
Attempted murder charge
Prosecutors say former NFL cornerback Brandon Browner has been charged with trying to kill his ex-girlfriend after breaking into her Southern California home.
The LA County District Attorney’s Office says the 33-year-old Browner, who won Super Bowls with the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, was charged Tuesday with attempted murder, first-degree residential robbery and other counts.
Prosecutors say Browner broke into the apartment, chased and dragged the woman and then tried to smother her in a carpet. Prosecutors say he also stole a Rolex watch valued at $20,000.
Police acknowledged Tuesday that a woman was assaulted during a home invasion at a suburban Atlanta house owned by NFL star LeSean McCoy, hours after graphic posts on social media accusing him of bloodying a former girlfriend drew denials from the Buffalo Bills running back.
One female was treated and released from the hospital, while another suffered a minor injury during a targeted invasion early Tuesday, Milton police said.
... An Ohio man has admitted defrauding NFL players out of money meant for charities. Camario Richardson, of Maple Heights, Ohio, pleaded guilty to mail fraud in federal court in Kansas City.
Prosecutors say Richardson, 39, told the players he could deliver Nike-branded merchandise to charitable events. The five players involved weren’t identified in the indictment.