With the Miami Dolphins facing backlash after submitting required paperwork to the NFL that included potential disciplinary measures for player protests during the national anthem, the league has decided to hit pause on its new policy, sources told ESPN.
The league and the NFL Players Association issued a joint statement Thursday that said "no new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks" while both sides continue to hold discussions to figure out how to move forward.
"The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue," the joint statement said. "In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA's grievance and on the NFL's anthem policy.
"The NFL and NFLPA reflect the great values of America, which are repeatedly demonstrated by the many players doing extraordinary work in communities across our country to promote equality, fairness and justice. Our shared focus will remain on finding a solution to the anthem issue through mutual, good faith commitments, outside of litigation."
The NFL decided in May that teams would be fined if players didn't stand during the national anthem while on the field. The rule forbids players from sitting or taking a knee if they are on the field or sideline during the anthem but allows them to stay in the locker room if they wish. The league left the punishment of players up to the teams.
The policy was challenged this month in a grievance by the players' union.
Sources told ESPN's Dan Graziano that the NFL and NFLPA had been prepared to issue the standstill agreement Friday but moved up the announcement because of the Dolphins story that broke earlier Thursday from The Associated Press.
According to the AP report, the Dolphins could impose discipline of up to a four-game suspension for any player who protested during the anthem. The report cited a nine-page document the Dolphins filed with the NFL that overviewed the team's overarching disciplinary policies.
However, multiple sources with the Dolphins and the NFL told ESPN that the Dolphins' submission of their potential disciplinary policies was merely part of an annual filing required of every team before the start of training camp. One Dolphins source said the team has not discussed -- and doesn't expect to impose -- suspensions for protesting during the anthem.
Instead, one Dolphins source said the team merely filed the paperwork required by the league, stating potential discipline, with the expectation that it could later discuss and decide exactly what type of discipline, if any, would be imposed on players if they violated a rule that was newly instituted in May by the NFL.
"We were asked to submit a form to the NFL on our overall discipline policy prior to the start of the rookie report date," Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in a statement on Friday. "The one line sentence related to the national anthem was a placeholder as we haven't made a decision on what we would do, if anything, at that point. I'm pleased that the NFL and NFLPA are taking a pause to figure out a resolution on this issue."
The league's 31 other teams also would need to file similar paperwork, and in the wake of Thursday's report about the Dolphins, the NFL was up against another PR mess: With teams about to report to camp, the focus would turn toward individual team filings to see how respective organizations would impose discipline on players protesting during the anthem.
The joint statement will allow the focus to remain on football and provide time for a more clear plan, according to league sources.
The Baltimore Ravens were the first team to report Wednesday and practice Thursday, and they did not distribute any new specific policy and had no plans to, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.