Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner, came with the huge announcement that he would bench any player who kneels during the anthem. The US President Donald Trump supported this decision via Twitter: “A big salute to Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who will BENCH players who disrespect our Flag. ‘Stand for Anthem or sit for game!’”
However, the question that arises here is whether Jones has the right to bench player(s) who decided to protest. Could this be illegal? Or is it a violation of the NFL collective bargaining agreement. Meanwhile, the NFLPA issued a statement: “We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects.” In case Jones, or any other owner, actually sidelines players this way, the NFLPA would file a grievance under the CBA.
A big salute to Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who will BENCH players who disrespect our Flag.”Stand for Anthem or sit for game!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017
The situation in the NBA is different because the collective bargaining agreement bounds players to stand for the anthem, whereas the NFL’s CBA doesn’t. According to the section in the NFL Game Operations Manual, the players “should stand at attention, hold helmets in their left hand and refrain from talking.”
To see what would be the outcome of the situation where players are benched by the owners, some experts spoke on the topic, ESPN reports. The opinions are divided, and we will write some of them here below.
The first person who spoke his mind was Charles Sullivan, the Seton Hall University Professor of Law. He said: “Where I think the players have a problem is there’s not really an adverse employment action if they are simply benched. They are still being paid, and I don’t think they necessarily have the right to play in games.”
On the other hand, Paul Secunda, director, labor, and employment law program, Marquette University, explained: “I’ve heard a lot of fans talk about Constitutional rights. There are no First Amendment rights involved here because it’s in the private, not public, sector. But I do believe that this is illegal. Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act allows employees to engage in activities to improve workplace conditions. By telling players they can’t stand for the anthem, Jerry Jones is effectively chilling such expression, which is a violation of the act.”
Benjamin I. Sachs is another professor who gives the advantage to the players, and he teaches at Harvard University. He stated: “I think being benched is adverse employment action. I also think that the protests are in fact directly related to their status as NFL employees. If they are protesting racial discrimination, that’s something that impacts their status as NFL players. So, I think benching would be violating federal law.
“I also think the union has a case in that NFL players’ contracts not only include how players are supposed to act on the field, but also off the field. You can therefore make the case that what they are doing in protesting is taking part in that civic duty,” added Mr. Sachs.
Michael J. Golden, a lecturer at the University of Texas, gave advantage to the owners and he said: “In order for professional football teams to be the most competitive they can be, the CBA gives management significant rights to decide who plays and who doesn’t — and ultimately who gets cut and who gets kept. The CBA pretty much guarantees that coaches and management decide, without review, who plays and who does not. It would be lawful for the Cowboys to have a rule that only people who voted for a particular party in the last election could play for the team. While this rule might be a bad idea, it wouldn’t violate the law. There are no additional Texas laws that apply here.”
What is your opinion on the topic?