The National Football League kept an embarrassing situation from becoming even worse by shelving its new policy clamping down on players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.
The league announced late Thursday it would suspend the 2-month old policy, which came in reaction to overblown criticisms by some fans — and exploited by President Donald Trump — who denounced those players who were taking a knee to draw attention to racial injustice as somehow anti-American. Under a policy the NFL owners ratified in May, players could stand or remain in the locker room, but teams would be fined if players on the field refused to stand for the anthem. The league also left the punishment of players up to the teams.
This was a ridiculous over-reaction to Trump’s infamous bullying, and the NFL — which made the announcement only hours after reports the Miami Dolphins had threatened to suspend players who violated the rule for up to four games —was smart to call a time out and pledge to engage in further discussions with players and team owners.
The NFL Players Association, which filed a grievance over the policy, will now work with the league to resolve the matter. A good first step might be for the owners to focus more on the quality of the performance they are putting on the field rather than on the personal views of those performing it. The players, in turn, need to realize that free expression is not entirely free of ramifications. And both sides would benefit from no more presidential meddling.