By Scott Tibbs, November 3, 2017
There is no "free speech" issue in the arguments about whether NFL players have the "right" to kneel during the national anthem. Employers have the right to set workplace rules if they so choose.
Right off the bat, before people start screeching hysterically that I am a "liar:" Yes I understand that the NFL has not (yet) forbidden kneeling during the anthem. If they do (and they should) the players must abide by workplace rules and have no "free speech" argument to do otherwise.
I actually saw one meme on Facebook where someone argued it was "illegal" for the NFL to force players to stand during the anthem because of the Supreme Court's decision in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. This does not just apply to NFL players, but to everyone. Nobody can be forced to stand, so the meme goes. It is against the law!
This is laughable. According to this "logic," parents are acting in violation of the law when they tell their children to stand during the anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance. The SCOTUS decision applies to units of government, including public schools. It does not apply to private corporations or individuals.
Some people actually attempt to argue that NFL players are not on the clock when they are in uniform, on the field, before the game starts. Of course they are on the clock. NFL players also have mandatory practice and mandatory times when they have to talk to the news media. It is counterfactual and foolish to pretend that they are only "on the clock" during the actual game.
Every job has different duties, and often in different parts of the workplace. I bagged groceries in high school for the local supermarket. The "argument" that NFL players are on the clock only during the actual game is like saying I was "on the clock" when bagging groceries but not "on the clock" and when I was bringing in carts from the parking lot or doing a price check when something did not scan properly.
NFL players have no legal right to refuse to obey workplace rules. Yes, of course they can protest. But they do not have the legal right to protest during the game and not in uniform in the stadium. Do it on a street corner, schedule a speech or a rally, post on social media, buy an ad on TV, whatever. The issue is not free speech. The issue is following workplace rules.
Some have compared calls for the NFL to make players stand to "slavery" - that it means NFL teams "own" their players. That is not only absurd, it is incredibly racist.
To diminish the very real suffering of slaves by equating chattel slavery to the seven-figure contracts in the NFL is shamefully racist and hate-filled. It shows an extreme ignorance of history and absolutely no empathy for the victims of chattel slavery. It is shocking to see someone making that "argument" as if it is actually respectable. All of those who make that "argument" need to apologize for this racism.
There are respectable arguments for why it would be good policy for the NFL to allow players to "take a knee" during the national anthem. Certainly, issues of criminal justice do deserve a full and complete discussion. That position is undercut when people make absurd arguments or attempt to defame people who disagree.