News & Politics

NFL Players Association Files Grievance About National Anthem Policy

Linda Sarsour, social justice and immigrant rights activist Rally for Colin Kaepernick outside NFL headquarters, New York, USA - 23 Aug 2017 (Rex Features via AP Images)

The NFL Players Association isn’t a fan of the NFL’s new policy regarding the National Anthem. It has filed a grievance against the league, claiming the policy violates the collective bargaining agreement.

“The union’s claim is that this new policy, imposed by the NFL’s governing body without consultation with the NFLPA, is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights,” the union said in a statement.

This won’t be going to court immediately, however: “In advance of our filing today, we proposed to the NFL to begin confidential discussions with the NFLPA Executive Committee to find a solution to this issue instead of immediately proceeding with litigation. The NFL has agreed to proceed with those discussions and we look forward to starting them soon,” the statement added.

The league clearly understands just how much the players’ antics have hurt the NFL by angering a large percentage of the fan base, yet the employee representatives do not seem to care. Last season was one of the most poorly watched and attended NFL seasons in recent history, largely due to the backlash over players choosing the National Anthem as an appropriate time to make personal political statements. Longtime fans and casual watchers tuned out the NFL, some of them possibly for good.

The league then instituted a new policy that I believe made the best out of the situation. No player will be required to participate in the anthem, but if they come out on the field, they have to stand. They can wait in the locker room or tunnel if they refuse to stand, but they can no longer be front and center making personal political statements on company time.

The truth is that employers have wide latitude to limit expression in the workplace, from speech to clothes to behavior. League fiduciaries have an obligation to do what they believe to be best for the league’s financial interests.

How can the NFLPA not recognize that this move counters the players’ interests? After all, if revenues continue to drop, wages will fall as a matter of necessity. No more million dollars each Sunday, no more huge signing bonuses, many companies wary of seeking future player endorsement deals. If they continue, the league could face a legitimate challenge from an upstart league.

Well, these are 25-year-old millionaires prattling on about being oppressed. Can’t expect them to be too savvy about anything but football.