NFL Players Association Preparing for Legal Fight Over Anthem Policy

DeMaurice Smith
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) has hired three different law firms as they prepare to mount a legal challenge to the NFL’s new anthem policy.

That report comes via a source to Pro Football Talk, who claims that the firms are exploring a variety of different methods to form the players’ legal response to the league policy.

The NFL announced a change to its anthem policy on May 23rd. Prior to the new rule, players had been merely required to be present on the sidelines during the playing of the anthem, with no stipulation requiring them to stand, or barring them from kneeling.

After the protests begun by Colin Kaepernick in the preseason of 2016 became pervasive throughout the league — reaching their peak in Week 3 of last year after President Trump ripped the protesters at a political rally — the league felt the need to act.

According to the new policy, all players in the playing area are required to stand for the anthem. Players who don’t feel like standing will remain in the locker room until the song is over.

According to Pro Football Talk:

One potential challenge would come in the form of a “non-injury grievance” under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The deadline for filing the grievance would come in late July, and the argument would be that the NFL failed to engage in good-faith bargaining with the union before taking away a right that the NFL had previously given to the players, and that the NFL had confirmed on multiple occasions.

The league gave players the right to protest in 2009, via a poorly-drafted policy that requires the players to be present on the sideline for the anthem but that makes standing optional. In 2016, the NFL confirmed that players are not required to stand after Colin Kaepernick was first spotted sitting during the anthem. In 2017, the NFL once again told players that they would have the right to protest, after the President said that he’d like to see an NFL owner respond to an anthem protest by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field, he’s fired!”

Other forms of litigation are possible, including an action based on both the U.S. and various state constitutions premised on First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.

Translation: Win or lose, a lot of lawyers are about to get paid.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn

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