Principled: NFL Players’ Union Putting Freedom of Speech Ahead of Player’s Financial Future

AP John Sleezer MP
AP Photo/John Sleezer

The NFL television ratings and attendance are down this year due to some players kneeling during the national anthem. If this trend continues, and myriad fans continue to stay away from the NFL product, it’s going to cost the players money, because there will be less profits to divvy about between their union and owners.

Yet, the NFL Player’s Association doesn’t seem too concerned by this.

Instead, they seem more concerned with their player’s First Amendment rights, no matter how much damage it does to the financial health of the sport.

The union is up-in-arms over Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones saying on Sunday, “If there’s anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play. Understand? If we are disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period.”

On Monday, the NFLPA released the following statement in response to Jones:

NFL players are union members and part of the labor movement that has woven the fabric of America for generations. Our men and their families are also conscientious Americans who continue to be forces for good through our communities and some have decided to use their platform to peacefully raise awareness to issues that deserve attention.

It is a source of enormous pride that some of the best conversations about these issues have taken place in our locker rooms in a respectful, civil and thoughtful way that should serve as a model for how all of us can communicate with each other.

We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects. That is what makes us the land of the free and home of the brave.

But perhaps you need to tip your hat to the NFLPA on some level. They are putting freedom of speech ahead of the financial future of their players. That is quite a stand to take by a union considering they are looking to break the bank in their next CBA, after the owners clearly won the 2011 negotiation.

The current collective bargaining agreement between the players and teams expires in 2021. If the arrow keeps pointing down on TV ratings and attendance, this will impact the amount of money players receive as part of their next CBA, and this could lower salaries. If the kneeling continues, it will likely hurt the ability of their rank-and-file to get a great deal in 2021, because their piece of the NFL financial pie will be smaller.

Also, if team profits go down, they will also likely starting laying off staff, so this could lead to less NFL jobs for former players.

But perhaps you need to tip your hat to the NFLPA credit on some level. They are putting freedom of speech ahead of the financial future of their players.

And it’s rare in a capitalistic society for a union to take a stand like that.


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