NFL Union Supports Anthem Protests Despite Harm to Players’ Salaries

AP Matt Dunham Saints
AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Last weekend, the NFL Players Association had their annual meeting in Las Vegas. They held their elections, voted in a new treasurer, and added four new players to the NFLPA Executive Committee.

The players also unanimously re-elected veteran offensive tackle Eric Winston as president of the NFLPA. Giving the former player his third consecutive three-year term.

“It is my honor to continue my service as president of our union,” Winston said. “I am grateful to the board of player reps for believing in me and will keep fighting for every NFL player during this important time in our history.”

“Important time” in their history might be an understatement.

The NFLPA has a lot on its plate: constant battles with Roger Goodell on player discipline, the concussion issue, landing a new collective bargaining agreement better than the current one, and declining TV ratings and attendance.

The latter is the elephant in the room.

One reason for the ratings and attendance decline, is clearly the anthem protests over the last two seasons.

The ratings and attendance dip could eventually hurt the players because it decreases NFL profits, which the owners and players share.

However, despite the protests potentially hurting the players earning power, the union consistently supports the their rank-and-file’s right to do it.

Last week, when the Houston Chronicle reported the Texans won’t be interested in signing free agents who protested (which the team denied), and Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross told the Daily News his players will stand in 2018 (which he has since retracted), the union fired off a statement supporting activist players.

“Our union is proud of all of our players whenever they express themselves for a bigger purpose,” the union said in a statement. “During this past season, we received assurances from both Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the Management Council, John Mara, that the right of players to demonstrate would be protected. We are glad that both the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins have clarified their positions to be consistent with what was confirmed with our union leadership, and we expect all other NFL teams to maintain the same commitment to protecting those rights.”

The union’s position is actually quite courageous.

They are siding with free speech while their constituents potentially take a financial hit due to protests that seem to turn off some fans/customers.

The union clearly subscribes to a worldview espoused by late boxing great Muhammad Ali, who once said, “My principles are more important than the money.”

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