The NFLPA Has Hired a Group of Law Firms to Address New National Anthem Policy
The football world was sent into a frenzy last month when the NFL announced a new policy regarding National Anthem protests in which league officials decreed that any players who kneel during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” would be subject to a fine. The ruling was controversial to begin with, but the heat has only risen over the past few weeks as more and more details about the decision have come out, including the revelation that no formal vote was held on the new policy and the admittance of the NFL that Donald Trump‘s statements on the protests influenced their decision.
Players have come out in droves to announce their displeasure with the new policy, with the officials from the NFL Players Association providing a huge amount of blowback for the NFL. Now, the NFLPA is upping the ante, hiring a group of law firms to look for ways in which they can fight against the new policy.
Perhaps their most pertinent challenge they can present to the NFL could be in the form of a “non-injury grievance” under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In this case, the NFLPA could argue that the NFL did not engage in good-faith bargaining with the NFLPA prior to league officials taking away a right of players which they had previously allowed. The NFL confirmed the players’ right to protest on many occasions, which would likely strengthen the NFLPA’s argument. 2009 saw the NFL officially provide players with the right to protest, as it was announced that they would be required to be on the sidelines during the National Anthem, but that they were not explicitly required to stand. This was reiterated following Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem in 2016, as well as several times throughout the 2016 and 2017 NFL seasons as the protests become more and more widespread.
With all this in mind, the NFLPA seems to have a pretty solid case against the new anthem policy from a legal perspective and will likely spend a good amount of this summer fighting for players’ right to protest. While it’s impossible to conclude exactly how this will turn out as well as how it could affect the 2018-19 NFL season, one thing is for certain: tensions between players and league higher-ups are very, very high and we could see a great deal of blowback as we move toward the fall.