NFLPA officially files a grievance over league's new national anthem policy

Eagles players raise a fist during the national anthem last season. Players were demonstrating to bring attention to social issues. (AP)

The NFL could have just let the national anthem issue be. Instead, it ignited a controversy that was probably dying down anyway.

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The latest move in the never-ending fiasco is from the NFLPA. It announced on Tuesday it is filing a grievance over the NFL’s new policy, drafted this spring, which says players have to stand on the sideline during the anthem but can stay in the locker room if they wish. Players, beginning with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, started kneeling in 2016 during the national anthem to bring attention to social causes.

NFLPA says policy infringes on player rights

There’s a lot to unpack in the NFLPA’s short statement.

First, there’s more to the grievance than just the anthem policy. Note that the NFLPA’s first gripe is that the NFL didn’t consult the union. That has been a theme since the new collective-bargaining agreement was struck. The union has protested pretty much anytime the NFL does something without their input. It’s a legitimate complaint.

The statement also claims that the policy is inconsistent with the CBA and infringes on player rights. The NFL will certainly battle back against those claims.

The NFLPA then proposed to peacefully settle the situation, and we’ll see how that goes.

NFLPA wants to discuss a solution with the NFL

The NFL has rarely met the NFLPA halfway on many issues, which is one reason everyone expects a work stoppage in 2021. When the union proposes “confidential discussions” with the league to figure out a solution, it probably knows the NFL will balk at that.

The league made a major error to open up the issue again this spring anyway — in an apparent attempt to appease President Donald Trump, which absolutely amazing on many levels — and it’s not going to want to start over on the anthem policy. The NFLPA makes the not-so-subtle threat of “proceeding with litigation,” which means that one way or another we might be in for another prolonged debate about the national anthem and the NFL’s policy.

And to think, had the NFL just let the anthem controversy alone this spring, nobody would have been mentioning it.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!