NFL to Kneel or Not to Kneel
Over the weekend many football fans witnessed civil protest as many NFL players knelt or were not present during the singing of our National Anthem. The First Amendment to the Constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Each player, and every other citizen for that matter, has a constitutionally protected right to participate or not in the singing of our National Anthem. This protection grants immunity from infringement by Federal, State, or local governments. In essence, a law could not be passed at any level that would require NFL players to participate in the singing of our National Anthem.
While the players are immune from being legally required to participate in the National Anthem, the players are not free to do whatever they want as contract employees. Yes, even these millionaire football players are employees just like you and me and have a boss to answer to. The same way your boss could say “no cell phones at work” NFL team owners could say “no kneeling during the National Anthem”. In both situations the employer has the right to establish what the consequences of an infraction would be, anything from verbal warnings, to writeups, suspension, and even termination. The interesting part is whether or not any of the individual player contracts or the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and National Football League (NFL) contain any language addressing this issue. I am making an educated guess that they do not, or this issue would have been put to rest almost immediately. It is now only a matter of time before the first savvy NFL team owner has language added to their player contracts to address the National Anthem issue and we will likely see an amendment to the current CBA which currently extends through the 2020 season.
If you’re an employer and have questions or concerns about your contract employees, employee handbook, policies, rules or regulations give Black Suit Law a call, 970-893-4985 and ask for Fort Collins attorney Robert J. Herrera.