Could You Legally Fire the Anthem Kneelers?
Unless you’re a hermit living in the woods – or just really despise football – chances are you’ve heard about quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players and their refusal to stand for the playing of the national anthem at the beginning of each game.
Some fans, military personnel and plenty of everyday people have called for the team owners to put a stop to this behavior by firing them, but is that legal? And if you had your very own Colin Kaepernick at your office, would you be allowed to fire them for their otherwise peaceful political protests while at work?
And if you had your very own Colin Kaepernick at your office, would you be allowed to fire them for their otherwise peaceful political protests while at work?
Some attorneys have said yes! Their opinion is that The First Amendment is designed to protect against government censorship, not censorship by private business. If the players are fired they would have little possibility of legal recourse against their employers. Others have said it’s more complicated than just a yes or no and it hinges on the contracts each NFL team has with the players in question.
Now, if we focus back on Kaepernick himself, the 49ers initially said that he had a right to protest under the free speech component of the first amendment. But based on the argument above the First Amendment only protects a person’s freedom of speech from interference by the government, not by their employer. Since he works for a non-governmental company they can technically terminate him if they find cause due to his free speech.
The issue of these kneeling NFL players definitely brings up an interesting point of view from an HR and employment law standpoint. One that begs the question – what would your company do if you were dealing with a situation similar to this?
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