The non-injury grievance filed by the NFL Players Association against the NFL over the league’s new anthem policy could result in an arbitrator rolling things back to the way they were before May. The discussions between the union and the league over the issue could lead to something even more significant: A permanent solution to the problem.
But here’s the problem with that: It should have happened two years ago.
The moment that Colin Kaepernick was spotted sitting during the anthem before a preseason game and the NFL acknowledged that the policy it created encouraged but didn’t require players to stand, the NFL should have engaged the NFLPA to come up with a new policy. But the NFL presumably didn’t want to have to make any concessions to fix the problem that it (i.e., one of its lawyers) created by using the word “should” instead of “must” before “stand.”
If someone had had the foresight in August 2016 to realize how the situation could unravel for the league, the concession would have been made then. Because now the union is in position to leverage an even greater concession — especially if the grievance prevails.
And the grievance could prevail. The argument is that the right to protest existed (as created and reiterated by the league) before May, and that the league took that employee right away without engaging in bargaining.
Remember when a couple of reporters working for the NFL tried to call the new policy a “compromise“? Remember the reaction that there can be no “compromise” if the players are shut out of the process? The grievance, if successful, will force the league to make the compromise that didn’t happen in May, that should have happened in August 2016, and that needs to happen if the league wants to solve this problem once and for all.