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Denver Broncos players kneel during the national anthem before an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 24, 2017, at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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NFLPA calls NFL anthem policy ‘inconsistent’ with CBA, files grievance

Denver Broncos players kneel during the national anthem before an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 24, 2017, at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

The NFL Players Association announced Tuesday it intends to challenge the league’s new policy regarding the national anthem on the grounds that it’s “inconsistent” with the two parties’ collective bargaining agreement.

In a press release Tuesday, the players’ union said they had filed a “non-injury grievance” on behalf of its members that challenges the anthem policy, which the league approved during the NFL owners meetings in May.

“The union’s claim is that this new policy, imposed by the NFL’s governing body without consultation with the NFLPA, is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights,” the release reads.

The NFLPA also called for “confidential discussions” between the NFL and its executive committee to “find a solution to this issue instead of immediately proceeding with litigation.”

“The NFL has agreed to proceed with those discussions and we look forward to starting them soon,” according to the release.

In a statement in May, Denver Broncos CEO and president Joe Ellis said the organization wants all of its members “to stand for the national anthem” while at the same time it needs “to listen to our players and support the issues and causes that matter to them.”

When asked during OTAs on if the team would have an independent policy regarding the anthem, Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said, “We don’t need one.”

“This is the beauty of having a league policy now. Last year we didn’t have a policy, so you had 32 different policies,” Joseph said. “This is a good thing for our league to have one policy. It’s clean. It’s clean for everyone involved, so I am happy that it’s a policy in place for all 32 teams, the same.”

Per a release from the NFL, the policy states that all team and league personnel who remain on the field during the national anthem “shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” Should a player or other team or league personnel not stand for the national anthem, the club will be fined.

However, the policy allows for the option for those who wish to protest to stay in the locker room or a similar location until the national anthem has been performed.

In a statement in May, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the new policy reaffirms the league’s commitment to “local communities and our country” while also asserting its dedication to collaborating with players to “advance the goals of justice and fairness in all corners of our society.”

“It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case,” Goodell said in the statement.

“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room until after the Anthem has been performed.

“We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it — and on our fans who enjoy it.”

The new policy responded to the hot-button issue of players kneeling for the anthem in protest during the past two NFL seasons, sparked by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand to bring awareness to what he deemed as oppressive behavior toward African Americans and other minorities in the United States.

In August 2016, Kaepernick told NFL Media: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

The emotionally-charged topic was reignited in September after comments from President Donald Trump condemning the NFL and its players for allowing the protests.

In response to the president’s statements, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaruice Smith said in a statement at the time:

“The peaceful demonstrations by some of our players have generated a wide array of responses.  Those opinions are protected speech and a freedom that has been paid for by the sacrifice of men and women throughout history.  This expression of speech has generated thoughtful discussions in our locker rooms and in boardrooms. However, the line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just “shut up and play.

“NFL players do incredible things to contribute to their communities. NFL players are a part of a legacy of athletes in all sports who throughout history chose to be informed about the issues that impact them and their communities. They chose – and still choose today – to do something about those issues rather than comfortably living in the bubble of sports.  Their decision is no different from the one made by countless others who refused to let ‘what they do’ define or restrict ‘who they are’ as Americans.”

Follow digital content producer Johnny Hart on Twitter: @JohnnyHart7.

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