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Owner: NFL said to stay mum on anthem policy

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown indicated that owners have been instructed to say little regarding the national anthem policy while an agreement is worked out between the NFL and the NFLPA.

The NFL and the NFLPA recently released a joint statement that said no new rules relating to players’ actions during the national anthem would be “issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing.”

“The league and the union are talking on this and we’re instructed to stand down while that’s ongoing,” Brown said on Tuesday. “I’m not going to sit here and stir the pot. They don’t want to hear from me right now. Let’s see how this bubbles up and I hope they can come up with some kind of answer that is acceptable to not just the club and the players but more the public.”

He added, laughing: “And let’s not forget the president!”

The NFL came up with a policy in May that forbids players from sitting or kneeling during the national anthem but allows them to stay in the locker room instead. Teams will be fined if players don’t stand, but individual punishment of players was left up to teams.

The decision to stand down came after the Miami Dolphins submitted a discipline document to the NFL that would classify protests during the anthem as “conduct detrimental to the club,” which would allow the team to issue suspensions or fines to players who do not stand during the anthem.

Brown did not say whether he had considered issuing a policy similar to the what the Dolphins enacted. No Bengals knelt during the national anthem last year.

“I’m not going to dive into that,” Brown said Tuesday. “Yes, I have thoughts on it. Yes, we had ways of handling it. I’m not so sure that wasn’t pretty good, at least compared to others. But that’s as much as I’m going to say about this”


Brown was also in the spotlight in May after reportedly asking free-agent safety Eric Reid if he planned to continue to kneel during the national anthem. Reid, who remains unsigned, was one of the first players to begin kneeling during the anthem, along with former teammate Colin Kaepernick. Reid recently filed a collusion grievance against the NFL regarding his employment status.

Brown said it “saddens” him that the NFL has lost favor with fans in recent years due to a number of issues, one of which he thinks is the ongoing debate about players’ actions during the national anthem.

“We have lost some of the fizz we had with the public with distractions, whether it’s the anthem issue or the concussion issue,” he said. “These issues are not generally fully understood by the people that criticize. And it has taken the focus off what we want the people to be looking at: the game itself. That’s where the excitement is, not these periphery issues. We have challenges. They have to be addressed better than we have to this point. And we just have to see what the future brings.”

He added: “It should never have developed into the issue it has. Yes, it bothers me that we sit here today talking about the anthem issue.”

Brown said he didn’t know what the timeline would be to come up with an acceptable solution for both sides. “I don’t know when it’ll be but if it isn’t by the opening game, it’ll be interesting,” he said.

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