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Where does the NFL draw the line on our First Amendment Rights of Free Expression?

September 27, 2017

The fundamental right of freedom of expression is not as boundless as the public might imagine. Regulatory Bodies are empowered to define the parameters of acceptable behaviors by their employees on and off the field. These Sporting Bodies provide oversight to the conduct of employees at all levels, ranging from payers to coaches, referees, and even club-managers.

Let`s begin carving-out unrestricted freedom of expression to the workplace in general and to the NFL specifically.

At every level of participation, freedom of expression stretches well-beyond the expectation of ethical behavior.

For instance, employers have the right to take action against an employee who engages in speech or behavior that expresses a political cause offensive to an owner, his sponsors, or fan-base.

There are valid reasons an employer would restrict political speech, such as to assure a productive work site or express opinions contrary to those of management. If an employer permits a hostile work environment, he faces the potential risk of having to pay damages from lawsuits.

According to John Whitehead, President of the Rutherford Institute, “Someone who says anything that an employer or official doesn’t like, and they’re gone.”

In an article published in Bloomberg Business Week on August 3, 2012 titled “The Workplace: Where Free Speech goes to die” the author describes the bottom-line as simple: “Be satisfied with talk at work that doesn’t offend colleagues or anger the boss”. The Constitution doesn`t impose restrictions on private employers “An employee would be well-advised keeping this in mind before shooting off his or her mouth at the workplace.”

Let’s take as an example the case reported both by Fox News (August 12th, 2016)1 as well as The Washington Times (August 13th, 2016) 2.

Critical Op-Eds in both publications expressed common outrage on behalf of supporters being denied the opportunity of galvanizing the grief of their supporters paying tribute to the officers killed in the ambush.

Both publications decried the NFL`s bandenying the Cowboys’ request to wear decals on their helmets during the season honoring the five police officers massacred on July 7th” (by an anti-police sniper at a Black Lives Matter protest).

Following the ban imposed by the NFL, a representative of the team released a statement expressing “regret and disappointment at the decision of the NFL preventing the wearing of the ‘Arm in Arm’ helmet decal as a ‘display of unity’ with the Dallas police”.1

Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshal was fined $10,500 by the NFL for wearing green football shoes in the Oct. 10 game against the New York Giants.

Marshall had said before last Thursday’s game he was wearing the shoes to attract attention to Mental Health Awareness Week.

Following the 9/11 attacks the NFL did not impose fines on players who violated the league`s dress and equipment policy to honor victims, NFL Senior Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy told USA Today Sports that they shouldn`t read into the leagues failure to punish as a sign of leniency on uniform policy for the future.

USA Today Sports Commentator Lorenzo Reyes commented that “in other words, if Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back DeAngelo Williams again wears eye-black with “Find the Cure” during Breast Cure Awareness Month in honor of his mother who died of Breast Cancer or teammate William Gray wears purple cleats for “Domestic Violence Awareness”, the league would fine them as it did the previous year.3

The NFL responded to these incidents by restating the Policy of the League Office on Uniform and Equipment: “The NFL elaborates that it will not allow players to convey messages which relate to political activities or any other causes, non-football events, campaigns or charitable causes”.

What does the NFL Rule-Book say about the National Anthem?

According to NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy, the policy is one which      has been in place for several years. It falls under the section player equipment, uniforms, and player appearance:

“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 the 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 at the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft-choices for violations of the above, including first offenses.”

One can comfortably draw the following conclusions from the NFL`s code of dress and behavior: The anthem is explicitly incorporated into the book-of-rules that apply to dress and equipment: Under no exception may a player deviate from this code. None of the noble causes described above were considered so exceptional as to fall beyond it`s boundaries:  Whether it was a display of solidarity with slain Police-Officers, Victims of Domestic Abuse, Breast Cancer, or Mental Health, players deviating from the NFL`s Honor-Code were subject to disciplinary action.

Which begs the question: Now that the NFL has decided to throw its time-tested Honor-Code to the dark forces of social discontent, subjugating itself to the anarchy imposed on it by the Deep-State: Is the rest of civil-society expected to join forces with this sinister spiral into moral darkness? Or can we selflessly rally behind the President for our collective honor, and join together for the greater-good ?

1. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/aug/13/nfls-ban-dallas-cowboys-pro-cop-helmet-decals-rank/

2 http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2016/08/12/nfl-denies-cowboys-request-to-wear-decal-   honoring-fallen-dallas-officers.html 

3 https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2016/09/14/911…policy…/90363342/

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