NFL: Players’ Association Legal Challenge to National Anthem Policy

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

On 10 July 2018, the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA) filed a ‘Grievance’ against the League challenging the revised National Anthem Policy, which the NFL announced on 23 May 2018.

Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, stated, at the time, that he hoped the Policy change would help the league to “keep our focus on the game.”

In a statement, the NFLPA said that the new Policy, which requires players to stand and show respect for the National Anthem, or remain in the locker room, infringes players’ rights under their Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Furthermore, the new Policy was adopted by NFL owners without the agreement of the NFPLA.

During the summer of 2016, many players ‘took a knee’ for the playing of the National Anthem as a protest against racial inequality and police brutality.

In a media release of 10 July 2018, the NFLPA stated as follows:

“In advance of our filing today, we proposed to the NFL to begin confidential discussions with the NFLPA  to find a solution to this issue instead of immediately proceeding with litigation.”

And added:

“The NFL has agreed to proceed with those discussions and we look forward to starting them soon.”

Interestingly, President Trump, has backed the NFL Policy of standing for the National Anthem, stating characteristically, in an interview on 24 May 2018, that:

“You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”

It will be interesting to see what happens next in this saga, which appears to raise questions of freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution!

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘ian.blackshaw@orange.fr’