- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Police unions in Florida are cancelling their discount-ticket deals with the Miami Dolphins after two players knelt for the national anthem at the first NFL preseason game.

“We sent the team an email saying, thanks but no thanks,” said Rod Skirvin, vice president of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association.

Mr. Skirvin said the Dolphins organization had contacted police unions offering specially priced tickets and VIP treatment for the Nov. 4 game honoring first responders, which he characterized as an “olive branch” to officers unhappy with last year’s kneeling.

He said his PBA, as well as those in Dade and Palm Beach counties, decided jointly to give the team another chance and accept the offer, but they changed their minds after the NFL refused to discipline players who refused to stand at Thursday’s preseason game.

The two Dolphins — wide receivers Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson — were the only players to kneel for the national anthem during the first week of preseason games. Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch sat on the bench instead of standing for the anthem, as he did last year, while a number of other players held up fists or linked arms.

“This is a league that punishes players for writing on their cleats, and they’re not going to punish players who won’t stand for the national anthem?” Mr. Skirvin said. “You’ve got to be kidding me. So we told our members, return your tickets, don’t buy their merchandise.”

He said the unions left the door open to accept the offer if the NFL revises its policy. In May, the league announced a rule change requiring players to stand for the anthem — or remain in the locker room — but froze the policy a month later in order to enter into discussions with the NFL Players Association on “the anthem and issues of equality and social justice.”

“We said we can’t participate, but if the policies change, that we would reconsider,” Mr. Skirvin said.

The three unions, which represent about 7,300 officers combined, may have started something. Mr. Skirvin said he’s received calls from other police unions and veterans’ groups saying that they plan to cut their ties with the NFL.

“It’s kind of spread. Unions and veterans from all over have been contacting me saying they aren’t going to renew their NFL packages or show the games at their meeting halls,” Mr. Skirvin said. “I’m seeing it all over the state. Other PBAs are going to follow.”

NFL officials issued a statement last week saying that they had “agreed to delay implementing or enforcing any club work rules that could result in players being disciplined for their conduct during the performance of the anthem” during the discussions.

At the same time, the NFL urged players to stand, saying “all player and non-player personnel on the field at that time are expected to stand during the presentation of the flag and performance of the anthem.”

“Personnel who do not wish to do so can choose to remain in the locker room,” said the NFL statement.

The Miami Dolphins did not return immediately a request for comment.

Mr. Stills told reporters after the game that he planned to continue kneeling during the regular season, saying, “I don’t see why not.”

What would it take to stop him from kneeling?

“It would take a lot. But I think a good first step for us as a league would be acknowledging what they’re doing to Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid,” Mr. Stills said. “You can’t say as a league that you support the players and the protest and then blackball the players that initially started the protest.”

Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid, both free agents, have filed grievances with the league alleging that the owners have colluded to prevent them from being signed to teams based on their refusals to stand for the national anthem.

“I’m on a platform that I have the right to protest,” Mr. Wilson told Dolphins Wire. “It’s a peaceful protest. We’re not harming anybody. We just want people to continue to know what is going on.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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