BEREA, Ohio -- During the offseason, the National Football League and its owners created a new policy requiring team and league personnel to stand for the playing of the National Anthem or remain in the locker room until after its completion.
But after resistance from the NFL Players’ Association and individual players speaking out against the rule because those involved in holding the protests were not consulted before a decision was made, the NFL opened a line of dialogue on the topic.
“The League and the Players’ Association are working to come up with a win-win solution, and I think there’s cautious optimism on both sides that that will happen,” Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said prior to Saturday’s practice in Berea.
“We’ve learned a tremendous during this process. We’ve worked very closely with our players. Dee and I have always been involved in the communities we’ve been involved with in a lot of different ways, but have become actively involved here in some issues that affected the players and look forward to continue to work with our players to make Northeast Ohio and Ohio and the U.S. for that matter a better place to live and work.”
When the announcement was made back in May, the NFL released a six-point outline of their stance on the National Anthem.
All team and league personnel “shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem,” but the previous requirement to be on the field for its playing has been removed. Personnel who do not choose to stand for the Anthem will be permitted to stay in the locker room “or similar location off the field” until its conclusion.
A club will be fined by the league should personnel be on the field and refuse to stand.
Parent clubs have the right to develop their own rules for personnel who do not stand for the Anthem, and the Commissioner has discretion to hand down “discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”
“I think the conversation should just be more so about what we can do to help our community out in each respective city that has an NFL team, as well as other cities and communities that do not have NFL teams -- how can we help the community out and bring the conversation back to one that is not divided,” quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. “Whatever it takes to get to that point.”
Over the last year, the Haslams and Browns players have been committed to holding neighborhood summits, something they “absolutely” plan on continuing with in the future.
“The players are really active in working on a plan for social justice reform in our area,” Dee Haslam said. “They want to get out and be volunteers and dive deep. We’ve hosted summits. We’ll continue to work. We focus on what we’re doing, the positive impact we’re having, so that’s really our focus and we’re excited about it.”
Admittedly, Browns offensive lineman Joel Bitonio “does know what the right answer is” to the debate, but is looking forward to addressing the “social injustices in the world,” and hopes the dialogue between the NFL and NFLPA can be a launching point for positive change.
“I know it’s not going to be perfect, but we’ve got to try and work as a group and come together,” Bitonio said.
“I think the more rules you put in, the more separate people feel, and so, if we can come together and pick or choose a few things that we can work on as a group to kind of improve, then I think that would be a step in the right direction.”
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