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Union Chief Asks Police to Stop Escorting Dolphins Until Players Stand

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    From left, Miami Dolphins' Jelani Jenkins, Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, and Kenny Stills, kneel during the singing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Seattle.

    The head of the Broward County's sheriff's union wants to end police escorts for the Miami Dolphins and is asking members to decline any assignments associated with the team in response to players taking a knee during the national anthem at a game last week.

    In a letter Friday, President of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association Jeff Bell called for the "immediate" end of team-sponsored escorts and demanded a code of conduct by the Dolphins and the NFL against players kneeling during the "Star Spangled Banner." 

    "As a law enforcement union, we certainly encourage people to exercise their constitutional right of freedom of speech," Bell wrote. "However, in certain professions, an individual’s freedom of speech must take a back seat to the organization or government entity that they choose to represent."

    The call comes after four Dolphins players — Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, Jelani Jenkins and Kenny Stills — knelt during the anthem at last Sunday's game against the Seahawks in Seattle. The players were following the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who said he began the practice in preseason games as a silent protest to denounce police brutality and the oppression of black people in America.

    Peter Dejong/AP

    "I can not fathom why the Miami Dolphin organization and the NFL would allow the blatant disrespect of the American flag and what it stands for during the national anthem. It is a privilege to play in the NFL, not a given constitutional right," Bell wrote.

    NBC 6 reached out to the Dolphins for a statement Friday but the team declined to comment. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Sunday that he stands by his players.

    "I don't think it was any lack of respect," Ross said. "I think everybody here, our team and our whole organization, respects the flag and what it stands for, the soldiers and everything. These guys are really making a conversation of something that's a very important topic in this country and I'm 100 percent supportive of them."

    Bell added that law enforcement officials often put themselves at risk while providing escorts, and said some have lost their lives protecting the same people protesting against police officers.

    "The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association Local 6020 is seeking the immediate termination of all Miami Dolphin escorts until such time the Miami Dolphins and the National Football League set forth a policy that will not tolerate the disrespect of the American Flag and National Anthem during any sanctioned games or events," Bell wrote. "We no longer support an organization that values financial profit over a minimum conduct standard. What good is it to ask singers to sing the national anthem, honor guards to perform services or ask the United States Air Force to conduct fly overs during the National Anthem if the same organization will not even set a minimum code of conduct for its players? Until further notice, I respectfully ask all members of law enforcement not to work any detail associated with the Miami Dolphins unless ordered to do so."