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Dolphins owner says team anthem policy was "placeholder"

© Getty/AFP/File | "I am passionate about social justice and through the Miami Dolphins and creation of RISE (an anti-racism program) will continue to use the power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress," Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said

MIAMI (AFP) - 

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross welcomed the NFL's decision to freeze action on anthem protests on Friday, a day after reports that his team might suspend players who failed to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner".

"I am passionate about social justice and through the Miami Dolphins and creation of RISE (an anti-racism initiative) will continue to use the power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress," Ross said in a statement posted on the Dolphins' Twitter feed.

On Thursday, a leaked report of the Dolphins' conduct policy for the upcoming season noted that anthem protests were listed as "conduct detrimental to the club" punishable by fines or suspensions.

Ross said that the "one line sentence" on the anthem policy "was a placeholder" because the NFL required the team's disciplinary policy at the start of training camp, and said the Dolphins "haven't made a decision on what we would do, if anything" if players on the sidelines declined to stand for the anthem.

Such anthem protests -- first launched by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 in protest at racial and social injustices -- put America's most popular sport at the center of a political firestorm last year after President Donald Trump described players who took part as "sons of bitches" who were insulting the flag, the military and the nation.

In May, the NFL announced a policy for 2018 requiring all players and team and league personnel on the sidelines to "stand and show respect for the flag and anthem" although it gave players the option of staying in the locker room instead.

The NFL Players' Association filed a grievance, arguing the new rule was "inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights".

The league and union agreed to confidential talks to try to resolve the issue, and issued a joint statement on Thursday night announcing a "standstill agreement" on the matter.

"No new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing," the league and union said.

As originally announced, the NFL would fine teams whose players violated the new policy, and teams would have leeway to punish players but were not compelled to do so.

Now the pressure is on for the parties to come up with a coherent policy.

The Dolphins were just one of the teams to open rookie training camp this week, and all 32 teams will have opened their full training camps by Friday July 27.

The pre-season kicks off on August 2 with the Hall of Fame Game between the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears and the regular season begins on Thursday, September 6 when the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles take on the Atlanta Falcons.

© 2018 AFP