Saturday night’s game between the Broncos and Vikings included no players protesting during the national anthem. However, a pair of Denver players remained in the tunnel, and the team didn’t know that would be happening.
Receiver Demaryius Thomas and linebacker Brandon Marshall (pictured) opted to pick a middle ground between the field and the locker room, technically a violation of Anthem Policy 2.0. You know, the one that’s still in effect but won’t be enforced against players until further notice.
“It’s their right,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph told reporters after the game. “We didn’t know about that, but it’s their right.”
Was Joseph disappointed he didn’t know that they planned to stay in the tunnel?
“I’m not,” Joseph said. “Again, it’s their right. It’s their right and my focus in pregame is on the football game — not who’s in the tunnel for the anthem. My focus is on our team during the pregame.”
G.M. John Elway and team president Joe Ellis may disagree with Joseph. Ellis already had met with the team over Anthem Policy 2.0, and the most popular player on the team already had declared the issue over and out.
“We have an understanding as players of what needs to be done regarding the national anthem,’’ linebacker Von Miller said in May, shortly after the new league policy was passed. “We were already done with that last year. We came together as a team last year. It’s a situation that we’re already passed last year. So any new policy that the league imposes, it really doesn’t affect us because we were already done a season ago.”
What was done a year ago was a decision by players to stand for the anthem. Which means that what was done a year ago may not be done now. The decision by Thomas and Marshall to break from the players-only position on the matter is thus significant. It’s also relevant because, as the league explained it after a smattering of protests on Thursday night, Anthem Policy 2.0 remains in effect, even if teams and the league can’t impose discipline on players for it.
This implies that, in theory, the league can still fine the teams whose players violate Anthem Policy 2.0. And it will be interesting to see whether the NFL actually imposes fines against any teams with players who protested during the anthem at a time when the league and the union have been trying to work out Anthem Policy 3.0.