On Wednesday, NFL team owners approved language to make players on the field stand during the national anthem. And as expected, the NFL Players Association is throwing a flag on the play.

And at the risk of speaking out both sides of our mouth, we are going to support both the owners’ right to determine on-field behavior by the players and the players’ rights to take political positions. The difference-maker, however, is the real estate on which it happens.

For those who have missed the background on this chapter, some NFL players began taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem in protest of what they considered mistreatment and brutality by police. Colin Kaepernick, who at the time was quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, is generally regarded as the most recognizable player leading the on-field protests. The actions then spread across the fields of play and into the national spotlight — even inviting the never subtle ire of President Trump.

And in response, the NFL fumbled the situation, and fans noticed. Television ratings began tanking, fans began finding other ways to spend Sunday afternoons, and the NFL — a money-making venture — found itself in strange waters. The viewership drop of 9.7 percent for the 2017 season equates to a lot of money in advertising revenue, not to mention fighting for a fan base when consumers have an increasing number of entertainment choices at their fingertips.

The NFL owners then tossed what is known as a Hail Mary pass — a high-risk, high-return play when nothing else seems to work.

The ball is coming down from the sky and we’ll have to see how this plays out.

Already, the NFL Players Association is calling foul for the owners not first consulting them as well as requiring on-field players to stand for the national anthem. But, unfortunately for them, constitutional law is not with them on the latter. Players, when they walk on the field of play, are employees — and therein lies the rub.

“The First Amendment doesn’t apply to private institutions,” Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of Berkeley Law and a constitutional law expert told The Washington Post. “Private employers can fire employees for their speech without having to worry about the First Amendment.”

Employers are well within their rights to determine behavior in the workplace. Much like the waitress at Denny’s cannot walk around wearing pins promoting one presidential candidate over another, the players of the NFL are no different. What does the NFL player share with the waitress from Denny’s? The constitutional right to make political statements in their private time and place so long as not on the property or representing their employer. Both the diner and the NFL football teams are businesses — both promoting a carefully crafted image, feel and product. Scrambled eggs and footballs on the same plate, if you will.

But let us also say we support the free speech of both the NFL players and waitresses. All have rights to say what they wish, promote what they believe, and not have the government to take action against them. Each can stand on the street corner, speak to local civic groups or we’ll even publish their letters. Open discussion of injustices and issues is a major factor in resolving problems in our nation. The waitresses and the NFL free safety share the same rights under the Constitution — as it should be.

But also understand the Supreme Court says free speech can only be limited by narrow forms of time, place and manner. Taking a knee (or wearing a political button) — as a paid employee performing employee work in a workplace environment — falls squarely into this window. To do so is to risk the repercussions of the actions. Not making the spirit of the action wrong, but does make it actionable.

There is no doubt the actions taken by the NFL player is motivated by the right principles — to bring attention to what they see as an injustice. And there is no doubt the largest platform to do so is while millions of viewers are tuned in or watching. We get that and applaud anyone’s courage to stand up for others whom they believe are being mistreated. But also, the NFL is, at the end of a day, a big business — and a very big business at that.

The ball is in the air, the flag is on the field and all that remains is will this new ruling lead to a resolution or simply another fumble?

• Leonard Woolsey

Leonard Woolsey: 409-683-5207; leonard.woolsey@galvnews.com

President & Publisher of The Galveston County Daily News.

(61) comments

Paul Hyatt

After being without the NFL for the last 2 years I see no reason to start watching those rich manby pamby players who declare that they are so oppressed. If I was the team I would let them know that they have to be on the field and that they have to stand. But of course the NFL shows again that they do not have a complete backbone. All I can tell those so called oppressed people get a real job and try that garbage and see how long you have a job....I am just surprised that anyone in the media is agreeing with the NFL on this issue as you all usually only join in on the extreme left wing ideas....

Roxanne Gray

I agree

Samuel Collins III

Leonard is correct in his column. The league/company policy changed. Last year standing was not a requirement. This year it is. Stand, stay in the locker room, quit or kneel and pay the fine. Those are the options of the players.

Kimberley Jones Yancy

Sam, I am so glad that MLK did not stay in the locker room to protest. I am so glad that the bus workers protested and lost their jobs to protest injustice. The people involved created their own economy as a result. If they hadn't you and I would still be forced to come into an establishment by back doors only and sit in the back of the buses. What else can you do when no one seems to be listening to the screams and cries of injustice? There is a price to pay for sure, then so be it.

Carlos Ponce

Last years Game Operation Manual:
"The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.
During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses."
New Policy:
"1. All team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
2. The Game Operations Manual will be revised to remove the requirement that all players be on the field for the Anthem.
3. Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room or in a similar location off the field until after the Anthem has been performed.
4. A club will be fined by the League if its personnel are on the field and do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
5. Each club may develop its own work rules, consistent with the above principles, regarding its personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.
6. The Commissioner will impose appropriate discipline on league personnel who do not stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.​"
If an owner opts to allow kneeling during the Anthem he or she risks being fined, losing gate revenue and fan support.
Not a 1st Amendment violation since it involves a private organization.

Roxanne Gray

How clearer can it get?

Emile Pope

Exactly how do you profess to be an authority on the Constitution? Football players are paid to play football not to make patriotic gestures. Their legal actions before or after their job are their own business. The weak example you give of a waitress doesn't apply because it assumes that her political statement was done while performing her job as a waitress. Have any football players been kneeling while out on the field running plays? Are they wearing political statements on their uniforms? How many waitresses are required to salute the flag before they start their shift? Demanding that citizens make patriotic gestures in order to be employed is Un-american. Perhaps you are thinking of another country in Europe and another time. And the way you blithely dismiss the reason for their protests with your "all about the Benjamins" attitude is questionable at best. I can't wait for your next writing "I understand your point Rosa but it was their bus"...

George Croix

Football players are employees of the team that signed them.
When they are at work, which would include any time spent in training, at practice, in the locker room, or on the game day field at any time whether before/during/after the game clock is running, they are subject to the rules of their employer, and their personal opinions and demonstrations may be regulated by that employer.
At our jobs we don't get to say or do anything we want while on company property or representing the company at a meeting or event, whether we are engaged at a work task or in the restroom P'g.
If a restaurant owner were to require his/her staff to salute or stand or whatever, they have the option to do so, or go elsewhere for employment.

The 'reason for the protests' was born out of the vile BLM, which itself was born from a lie about 'hands up, don't shoot' despite the efforts of a police-hating, baiting President and his AG to find fault by sending about 150 or so Justice Dept. lawyers there to try to find some wrongdoing while at the same time making a fok hero out of the 'gentle giant' stroingarm robber and Police officer assailant.
If a 'protesting' ball player wants to risk a job over it all, that's their call...

Emile Pope

The BLM Movement was formed over the shooting of Trayvon Martin. I can only assume that you got your wrong information from the same place you got the other wrong information you stated...

George Croix

If you want to call a social media hash tag a movement formation, then Treyvon it is.
If you want to call street demonstrations and rioting and calling for dead cops actually moving, then Michael Brown it is.
Readers can decide for themselves what constitutes talking and what constitutes action...all based on false premises.....
That kinda gives short shrift to actual cases of wrongful death, to me, but then, that's just me.....

Emile Pope

Garbage. Just admit that you were wrong. Your "alternate facts" is just wrong. Interesting how you people refuse to admit facts that are easily obtained and cling to falsehoods and tortured logic. BLM was formed more than a year before Michael Brown was killed. Facts are facts.

Carlos Ponce

George Zimmerman was tried in court. The evidence acquitted him. The narrative put out by BLM in that incident was flawed, ignoring the facts and evidence of the case. Ditto for their narrative in the Michael Brown case resulting in riots. In the Michael Brown case, the police officer was no billed based on testimony from African American witnesses. Why did BLM call African American witnesses liars?

Emile Pope

Repeating falsehoods don't make them true. And not even the point of the discussion...

Carlos Ponce

I didn't bring up BLM, I didn't bring up Trayvon, I didn't bring Michael Brown into the discussion. I just continued what was there. And there are no "falsehoods" in my post. Check the facts, Emile, check the FACTS.

Emile Pope

Your ally did. And he was as wrong as you are...

Carlos Ponce

Show me what YOU think is wrong, Emile.

George Croix

Been busy....so a little late....

Emile, I don't have any 'allies' in these forums.
I post for myself only. If what I say supports anybody else it's incidental unless I specifically say I'm supporting them. Whether you believe that or not is of less than no consequence to me.
I don't need any help with you, anyway.....
[beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam][beam]

Roxanne Gray

The NFL game players instructions are in their last years manual!

George Croix

ps:
At it's most basic level, the Montgomery, Alabama bus line was owned and operated by a city and should have been open to all riders to sit where they chose, as bus tickets are not sold with reserve seating so even that poor excuse was not in play.
A football stadium/ball park ticket gets you a seat where the ticket specifies.
If you simply must divert every time, at least choose something more relevant.
To me...me...equating Rosa Parks to the prima donna kneeling 'protesters' is a huge insult to Rosa, who was actually taking a stand against a real wrong, rather than one born in a PR campaign...
But, that's just me.....
Besides, the correct non-dodging comparison would be between the bus driver and the protesters, as both were employees.
Rosa was a consumer, just like the fans are....

Samuel Collins III

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/posteverything/wp/2018/05/24/there-would-be-no-nfl-without-black-players-they-can-resist-the-anthem-policy/

Samuel Collins III

The fans have a choice to watch or not watch. The owners had a choice and they made it. Now the players have a choice to make. Accept the change or not. That's it. If a majority of your employees care about an issue and you ignore it they may just walk out. If your customers/fans no longer like your product they will stop buying it. The NFL has no product without the labor force of players and no profit without the fans.

George Croix

That is absolutely correct, Samuel.
As a supervisor myself for over 30 years, I learned the great value of listening to my crew (s) and bending when I should have, even when I didn't like what they were saying. The crew keeps you alive, while your boss just keeps you employed.
I also knew that at some point, sometimes, even if it made no real sense to us, we all had to do what our boss said, if he could not be convinced we were right and he was not, or he'd get rid of us and hire people who would. Or, we could quit on our own if we thought the issue was important enough.
Unfortunately, that led to more than a few bad outcomes, almost always for that boss who wouldn't listen to the people on the front lines.
Also, I never had a single person quit over following orders they thought incorrect but that did not put anyone at risk but the boss.
I'd bet a lot of money if I had it that the players will not toss a big contract over this, but, as always, may be wrong.
The fans already spoke last season with the decreased attendance and TV ratings.
It remains to be seen if they return.
With the leavers and the returners, and absent direct interviews, we can only speculate as to why they do either

Emile Pope

Players have constitutional rights. Demanding that they make patriotic gestures as a condition of employment is illegal and unconstitutional. If the owners said that the players had to pray before the game would it be legal? Football players are paid to play football and unless their pregame actions prevent this then they are within their rights. Let's let the courts decide. The fact that the people not subjected to the mistreatment that the players are protesting about and don't want to be reminded that it occurs is irrelevant. The people against the protests are the ones who should be ashamed...apparently "we who are about to die salute you" will be required of players to say in the next contract.

Carlos Ponce

"Demanding that they make patriotic gestures as a condition of employment is illegal and unconstitutional." They don't have to, Emile. No requirement they stand at patriot attention during the Anthem. Instead, they can stay in the locker room until after the anthem. Fans will take note on who stands during the Anthem and who does not.

George Croix

You seem to think that a player is only employed when out on the field playing downs, and all other time he's free to do what he wants. Lockers, sidelines, wherever else....
Stick with that, and the hyperbole.
It will serve your case as well as it already has....

Paul Hyatt

If those mamby pamby players were serious they would be donating a ton of their money to lawyers to help those so called victims. If those players were serious they would be setting up businesses in those areas so that these victims could have a job.... Those players are nothing more than rabble rousers who are against any authority. If it wasn't for the NFL those players would have nothing...

Paul Hyatt

With out the fans, the players have no paycheck.... That is the only way these rich so called oppressed players will learn that they were wrong. I for one refuse to watch the NFL ever again and there are many who say the same thing just look at the way the NFL is now starting to change their tune about the players.... They are feeling the hurt in their profits....

George Croix

ps:
I had a short medical issue delay before I could read the link you provided....sorry.
I'll simply say that it's my impression...mine....that the guy who wrote the article is guilty of engaging in the same type of charcterizations that he accuses the league of. He's saying that the only reason for the new rule is because the players involved are mostly black.
Never minding that ostensibly the fans didn't greatly decrease watching and attending games based on race, but on demonstration.
The players demographics are the same now as before all the on-the-job protesting began, so it seems a bit of a stretch to me to say the fans and owners suddenly got mad at only black players because they are black, and not about actions.
I might be wrong.
Samuel, I'll tell you a quick true tale of 'protesting' and 'upper hands'.
37 years ago when I was a brand new foreman, my crew decided to follow a Chief Operator's lead, a guy who hated all salaried people, and refuse to work to fill a post that was going to be open due to illness of the guy scheduled to fill it. Policy was simple - lowest man on the list had to work it, and then move up the list from there. ALL refused to work, and the Chief wagged his finger in my face and told me what was I going to do, fire everybody!! Then laughed.
No, I said, I'm not going to fire anybody, I'm going to call another Supv. and we'll cover the empty job, and then I'm putting you and the entire crew on individual disciplinary suspension, effective at end of shift, and each of you will report for your next scheduled shift or face further disciplinary action up to and including termination.
And then did it.
Each guy kept his job, but each of the wanna-be mutineers spent 3 days to 2 weeks off without pay later.
We ALL lost...for a meaningless protest......
Funny how history always has an opportunity to repeat itself in some similar way.....
Interestingly, I later recommended some of those guys for promotion to Supv. - it was about the job, not about personal.....

Emile Pope

Another "back in the day" story that has nothing to do with the subject discussed. Did the boss require that the workers waive their constitutional rights to work? Were they required to perform patriotic gestures or anything before or after their work? Did the boss require them to pray before work? Your example is absolutely useless...

George Croix

It is?
Well, how 'bout that...
Next time, I'll type slower.....

Emile Pope

Emptying a water jug slower doesn't give you more water. Neither does emptying a thimblefull of knowledge...

George Croix

Grandma would have said a little sugar in the tea is better than none, if she were still here.
Of course....
Always better to kill the messenger, when unable to refute the message,
Choose to stop being a victim.....that's real freedom of choice in action...
Brought to you courtesy of the very people being 'protested' against....

Carlos Ponce

No Constitutional Freedom of Speech in the Private Sector

Employees in the public sector – who work for governmental entities – have First Amendment rights in the workplace, subject to certain restrictions. The case law that has developed over time regarding First Amendment rights in the workplace has come from the public sector, as the government is directly affecting employees in public sector cases. Private citizens do not enjoy the same protections.
https://corporate.findlaw.com/law-library/freedom-of-speech-in-the-workplace-the-first-amendment-revisited.html

Paul Hyatt

IF you hate our nation so much then why are you here or better yet why are those rich oppressed players still here? I bet if you they went somewhere else they would find that our nation is NOT as bad as they think it is.

Emile Pope

Ask your president. He spent two years badmouthing this country and not a single person told him he should leave (although he had the means to do so). Instead he was made president. Apparently only certain people are allowed to criticize this country. Wonder why?

Carlos Ponce

Donald Trump did not badmouth the country. He expressed his feelings about policies of the previous administration and Liberals in general. And he also was critical of the Republicans in power. That's why his intent was to make America great again. Badmouthing the entrenched politicians of both parties is not the same as badmouthing the country.

Emile Pope

More garbage. The players are protesting police brutality not the country. And the fact that a bunch on narrow minded individuals are trying to deflect the meaning of the protests doesn't change anything. Let's see...badmouthing the administraton and politicians isn't badmouthing the country but protesting brutality is? Only in the mind of a Drumph supporter...

Carlos Ponce

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color", Colin Kaepernik August 2016.
Emile, you do know what "for a country" means, right? There's more to it than your simple explanation. "not the country" - it's that and what you post.

Carol Dean

There is nothing "like beating a dead horse to death. I knew we couldn't just "move on". "Nobody ever said life was fair". Enough of the tried and still true clichés; a decision has been made, players can choose to live with it or not and suffer the consequences.

Carol Dean

Emile...and your point is??? Drip, drip, drip...

Carol Dean

And then there was BO who labored around the world, apologizing for America...Unacceptable.

George Croix

It's good to not have to face everything twice...[whistling]

George Croix

I wonder when the same people will protest brutality AGAINST the Police?
Especially against the vile trash calling for 'dead cops', and the ones assassinating the officers?
Oddly, a majority of the same protesters never, or I missed it, protest against their own fellow citizens killing each other in numbers far greater...far greater...than any bad cop killings. THAT is something that celebrities and sports figures could directly and positively influence by becoming good role models for good behavior.
Is there really such a need to perpetuate victimhood rather than admit that MOST of the interactions we have with Police are benign?

Emile Pope

Compare what happens when the police are brutalized to what happens when civilians are brutalized by police and your argument is dismissed for the garbage it is...

George Croix

So, on your planet then, there's different kinds of dead, and it's OK if people you support kill others but bad if people you dislike do.
At least you're consistent with your past positions on any number of subjects...it's always the same basic reason....whether it is or not.....

George Croix

Another little note about 'brutalizing:
When the Police mass in the hundreds and start rioting in the streets after one is killed and trashing the property of innocent people and calling for the deaths of people like whoever committed the crime, then you might have a case that's fixable.

Carlos Ponce

No comparison. Only a very FEW of the times BLM claimed they were "brutalized" by the police did the police actually use improper tactics. Michael Brown is one case.

John Dupla

Standing for the flag/anthem represents a way for ALL of us to be united as one Nation. Much like a family, we'll have our differences but we're still joined together under a common bond. Kneeling is just the "protest de-jour" To me this is NOT a constitutional or employee's right argument, It's a matter of interpretation. Who says it's because of police brutality? It's based on on one man's views copied by others that say "oh yeah", include me on that. However, if you move the light around and put a different hue on the subject you can change the "interpretation" of this gesture. Case in point, I can say that kneeling shows respect to "their white masters", then I can accept why they do it (note: people have knelt before Kings/superiors as a sign of submission) Tomorrow I'll join in at kneeling to protest "they don't put enough raisins in Wheaties". Now if I can just get others to join in, we'll get our raisins.

Emile Pope

How dare you ask people to accept treatment that you wouldn't tolerate for a second....

John Dupla

Please re-read my comments. Never did I say for people to accept intolerable conditions. I just don't buy into one persons interpretation of their actions. I'm entitled to my own interpretations and it doesn't mean accepting someone else(s) sound bite. There's an old saying, "don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining". It seems someone is telling you it's raining.

Emile Pope

What you are saying is that something doesn't exist simply because it doesn't affect you. And since you feel that it doesn't exist you don't want to hear about it or allow it to disturb you. You don't get to decide how and when someone protests something when it doesn't affect you. So what if the fans don't like the protests, they can watch something else...

John Dupla

To Emile: are you trying to put your words into my comments and if you are you're WAY OFF. Do you actually read and understand what others are saying? No where did I make a connection between intolerable conditions and my acceptance of someone's explanation of their actions. There's a book out called "People Can't Drive You Crazy If You Don't Give Them the Keys". it seems you are giving out all your keys.

Emile Pope

"Who says it's because of police brutality?" Your question. The answer...the players. They've stated it several times. The fact that others don't want to address or admit the problem and try to make it into something else doesn't change the player's reason for their actions.

Carlos Ponce

"The answer...the players." Emile, the "players" have said many things. Kaepernick said "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag FOR A COUNTRY that oppresses black people and people of color" in August 2016. Some say it was to show unity. Some give the reason you give. You do not speak for the NFL players. Their reasons are as varied as the players themselves.

John Dupla

I apologize for using the word "white" before masters. Anybody can be considered a master, just ask my wife.

Jim Forsythe

Some reasons for viewers decrease, if you are only counting the networks in the numbers watching, then Sunday ticket and other such packages could be part of the drop for the networks numbers. DirecTV offers its NFL SundayTicket package, and TV operators Altice (ATUS) and Dish Network (DISH) also have packages
When Oakland moves to Las Vegas, they will show a huge increase in attendance for that team. A few other teams are just bad as Oakland and have lost numbers.
Several teams have a waiting list of many year, if you want to buy a season ticket. The Green Bay Packers have the longest waiting list, with more than 100,000 names. The Green Bay Packers wait is 30 years. Houston Texans has a 4 year wait on season tickets
Money.
NFL will increase the each team salary cap's total from $167 million 2017 to $177.2 million for 2018.This means that the players salaries will increase by about 10 Million per team.

The business part of the NFL is on track, as to what was expected of them.Commissioner Roger Goodell said seven years ago that he’d like the NFL to reach $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027. The league is roughly on track to get there. Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reports that the NFL expects to generate $14 billion in 2017. That’s a $6 billion increase from 2010, when the NFL racked up $8 billion.
National revenue only.
Each NFL team receives an equal share of the league’s “national revenue” -- primarily money from television deals, but also league-wide sponsorships, licensing and merchandise sales. The Packers, the only publicly owned franchise in major U.S. sports, reported Wednesday that they got $244 million, up from $222.6 million last year.


George Croix

As always Jim you present perfectly plausible alternative possibilites, and I'd be surprised if many if not all are in play with attendance drop. Thanks.
On the flip side, heck, it's certainly possible that the 'protesting' has INCREASED attendance that would have been lost due to the other variables.
Yep.
That's it......

Carol Dean

Emile, it is more YOUR style to "stick your head in the sand" or to generate problems that do not exist. Better yet, focus on the great strides that have been made in achieving a more "equitable" existence then dwelling on the actions of the past; focus on the present and he future which we have control over.

Cary Semar

I think the players should stick together.

George Croix

If so, I hope the fans do, too.
If the people paying for tickets want to pay for prima donas to 'protest' on the field, then have at it.
It's their money.
Be interesting to see, though, what the end result would be if somebody held football ganes and nobody came.....[beam]
Not likely, in a country where a large percentage will attend 'no matter what they do'.....

George Croix

Ganes?

Games...

Close enough

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