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AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato

A Fight Over The National Anthem Is Not One The NFLPA Should Pick With The NFL

A couple of months ago, the NFL announced it was enacting a new national anthem policy that requires players and team members to stand during the national anthem or wait in the locker room if they don’t want to stand. This new policy came after the NFL committed $89 million dollars to social justice causes after working with the players.


Now, the NFLPA has decided to file a grievance over the new national anthem policy. The statement from the NFLPA reads:


Our union filed its non-injury grievance today on behalf of all players challenging the NFL’s recently imposed anthem policy. 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.


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.


I understand that the NFLPA wants to ensure they have input on decisions and do not like having things dictated to them. But seriously, this is not the battle to pick with the NFL.


The NFLPA is filing a grievance because it “infringes on player rights.” To put it simply, players still want to be able to kneel during the national anthem.


Take a step back and think about that. Some players are upset because they want to be out on the field during the national anthem with the sole intent of kneeling. The NFL was more than fair with the new policy which allows the players to wait in the locker room if they do not want to stand during the anthem. If players don’t want to stand, then fine; they are not forced to participate in the anthem. To try and force the ability to be out for the anthem just to kneel is pure craziness.


The majority of people do not believe it’s right for someone to kneel or sit during the national anthem. It’s probably safe to assume the vast majority (over 90%) of football fans do not agree with anthem kneeling. At games, everyone in attendance appears to be standing each game, and they let any player that kneels hear about it by raining boos down on them.


Also, President Trump has been in strong opposition to NFL players kneeling. The president has millions of passionate supporters, many of which are big football fans, who agree with his stance on the anthem. President Trump’s criticism of the National Football League is not good for the league, and it would have gotten worse if they did nothing about the anthem issues. Business-wise, the NFL would be foolish to allow kneeling to continue.


So, the NFL made it mandatory for players and personnel to stand if they are on the field during the anthem. If not, anyone that doesn’t want to stand can wait in the locker room. This doesn’t force anyone to do something they don’t want to do, and it’s a much better look for the NFL to have everyone that’s out there standing. It’s hard not to see how that’s a fair compromise.


However, the NFLPA seems intent on having some players kneel during the anthem. They apparently think not being able to kneel infringes upon their First Amendment right. But no one is stopping the players from spending their time outside of the national anthem on whatever they want. Additionally, the NFL has the right to set policies for their league—it’s not infringing upon anyone’s First Amendment right. If a player doesn’t like it, they don’t need to sign a contract to play in the NFL, or they can just stop playing. They are free to find a different football league or go into another profession.


It shouldn’t be too much to ask that on less than two dozen Sundays per year, players can either stand for the national anthem or wait in the locker room. It’s mind-blowing that the NFLPA would attempt to force the ability to be out there just to kneel—which, whether you agree with it or not, is seen by many as being disrespectful.


When the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2021, the NFLPA should want the fans on their side on what could be tense negotiations. Taking on the NFL over the national anthem is not the way to get that done.


Despite what you might see on social media from the very vocal minority, most people and NFL fans in particular are against kneeling during the anthem. It’s bad for business, and it’s not a good idea to frame not having the right to kneel as having your rights infringed upon. This is a battle the NFLPA would be wise to drop.


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