From anthem protests to domestic violence to President Trump and from looming labor disputes to CTE, the NFL is at a crossroads regarding its future.
South Florida police unions are urging their members to not buy Miami Dolphins tickets or seek a refund because several players had protested during the national anthem before the preseason opener.
Before Thursday’s preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson took a knee and defensive end Robert Quinn raised a fist.
Several NFL players, inspired by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have knelt during the anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.
“The Palm Beach County PBA recently offered our members discounts to a Miami Dolphins game because the franchise said they were going to honor all first responders,” the union said in a statement on Facebook. “We entered into this partnership with the understanding that the Dolphins organization would require their players to stand for the National Anthem. This did not happen.
“As a result, the Palm Beach County PBA will no longer participate in this ticket program, and we are asking all our members, as well (as) members of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association and the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, not to participate either. If you have already purchased tickets to this game, we encourage you to call the Dolphins ticket office to request a refund because this organization obviously does not honor First Responders and the dangers they put themselves in every day.”
This isn’t the first time that police unions have reacted to players’ on-field protests. Cleveland police refused last year to hold the flag in a preseason game after players had knelt during the anthem. St. Louis police complained in 2014 when some Rams players put their hands up in a “don’t shoot” gesture, a response to the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson.
President Donald Trump, who has questioned the patriotism of players who kneel, weighed in again on Twitter on Friday.
“The NFL players are at it again – taking a knee when they should be standing proudly for the National Anthem. Numerous players, from different teams, wanted to show their “outrage” at something that most of them are unable to define,” he tweeted.
He added that players should “be happy, be cool” and stand proudly during the anthem or risk being suspended without pay.
NFL owners passed a rule in May saying players needed to stand and show respect during the anthem but players who didn’t want to stand could stay in the locker room. Teams were free to punish players who violated the rule.
But that rule was put on hold last month while the league and NFL Players Association worked on a compromise.
Contributing: Lindsay H. Jones, USA TODAY