NFL Halts New Anthem Policy to Come to Compromise

Employment attorneys weigh in on implications of NFL anthem protests for collective bargaining

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback (right) Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem with former teammate Eric Reid to protest police brutality against blacks. Both players are currently free agents after they kneeled during the anthem for two seasons, and many other NFL players eventually joined in the protest./ GETTY IMAGES

The NFL sparked the latest wave of controversy over the protests during the national anthem in May, when the league owners voted without the input of the players union to implement a new rule requiring players to either stand during the national anthem, or remain in the locker room.

Then in July, the NFL announced it would put a hold on the new rule taking effect while the league and NFLPA try coming to a compromise.

Husch Blackwell partner Thomas Godar said one aspect of the NFLPA that seems distinct from other types of unions is the sense of family players feel that encourages solidarity. The lesson to other types of unions, he said, is the need to find ways of staying relevant to their members. The need is amplified in both the public and private sectors, considering developments in each realm concerning non-union members being compelled to contribute financially to union activities.

“So when the union takes on this [player protest] issue by grieving the action of the NFL owners, they’re being relevant to their members,” Godar said. “They care how their players are being watched and responded to. That’s a big deal.”

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the August 6, 2018 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.