NFL Player Protests and the Constitution

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NFL Football photo by Parker Anderson

The hottest topic in our country right now involves NFL (National Football League) Players kneeling during the United States National Anthem. Colin Kaepernick began kneeling as a protest against police brutality in America. Now other players and entire teams (including the Pittsburg Steelers and Dallas Cowboys) are protesting racial inequality and injustice that still exists in our country today. Opponents to the protests consider kneeling to be disrespectful to the military, first responders, and the United States as a whole. President Donald Trump has added fuel to the fire by suggesting that NFL Owners should fire players who protest. While the country appears to be divided on this political issue, it presents an interesting question for some NFL Team Owners: Can NFL Team Owners fire players for protesting the national anthem?

It is well established that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the rights of free speech, and the right to peacefully assemble. However the First Amendment applies towards the United States government, not private organizations like the NFL. The current debate does not involve any state action, so it is highly unlikely that the First Amendment would preclude any NFL Owner decisions.

The most likely way for NFL Players to defend themselves for protesting would be in their NFL employment contract. If players had contracts that protected their right to free speech within the scope of employment, then they would likely be able to protest the national anthem among other free speech actions. Currently the player’s collective bargaining agreement put together by the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) gives vast power to the NFL Owners. NFL owners are allowed to fine or discipline players for any actions that diminish public respect for the game. These terms make it highly unlikely that players have any defense for being fired for their actions.

The latest debate regarding NFL Protests brings about significant constitutional, employment, contractual, and civil legal matters. If you or someone you know is facing civil legal issues please contact the Bruner Law Firm. The Bruner Law Firm has served thousands of clients throughout Northwest Florida for over 30 years. The Bruner Law Firm has lawyers who specialize in recovering damages for victims of car accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, boating accidents, motorcycle accidents, and trucking accidents. If you need a personal injury attorney in Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City, Niceville, Navarre, or Crestview please contact the Bruner Law Firm. With offices located in Fort Walton Beach and Panama City, Florida the team of lawyers and legal specialists at the Bruner Law Firm are ready to help!

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