NFL Protests and the First Amendment

Kaepernick kneeling

We’re up to our hips in hogwash about the First Amendment rights of protesting NFL players. They have no such rights. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply to football. It applies ONLY to Congress, and by legal extension, to all lawmaking bodies in the United States.

Here’s what it says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So the owners are not prevented from firing players by the First Amendment. Arguably, they are as free to fire a player for taking a knee for the National Anthem as Google, for instance was free to fire James Damore for taking public exception to Google’s diversity efforts. And for the same reason: damaging the employer.

Not to say firing a player would be good business. Players have a way of sticking up for each other, whatever their color or politics. So even if an owner disagreed strongly with the protests, they’d be unwise to fire the protester.

Protesting by display against the National Anthem raises questions of ethics and comity, but don’t bring the First Amendment into it.

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