Latest Posts

Home

Facebook

Twitter

Search
About

A Constitutional Right to Kneel? No, Actually

With Thursday Night Football kicking off shortly, the prospect of NFL players refusing to stand for the National Anthem is again in the news. When the issue is debated, it is common for observers on both sides to say that the players have a constitutional right, under the First Amendment, to kneel, sit down, or whatever. This actually is not correct. Under the First Amendment, players have a right not to be punished by the government for kneeling. Professor Teresa Stanton Collett of St. Thomas Law School makes the point:

I don’t watch football. I don’t care about football. But I do care about constitutional literacy. Please stop saying football players have first amendment rights to disregard the direction of their private employers while engaged in privately sponsored activities — which is what NFL football games are. They have no more constitutional protection for their expressive activities than I do for mine at my private Catholic university. Any “rights” they have are based on their contracts and employment law.

This is correct. The First Amendment restrains the power of government. It doesn’t authorize employees to disregard their employers’ instructions on things like what socks to wear, how to celebrate in the end zone, or how to behave during the National Anthem. Years ago, Bud Grant, then coach of the Minnesota Vikings, thought that his team looked sloppy when it lined up for the Anthem. He devoted some practice time to proper deportment during the Anthem–how to line up, how to stand, and so on. You can be sure that kneeling was not part of Grant’s protocol.

What is happening currently is that the owners are cowardly. They are coddling protesting players by refusing to enforce their own rules, which do cover how to behave during the playing of the Anthem. That is their right, I guess, but they should take responsibility for their decision and not try to pass it off on the Constitution.

Let’s conclude with “a little perspective” from the world’s greatest cartoonist, Michael Ramirez. Click to enlarge:

Comments

Subscribe

Categories

Upcoming Events

  • Fall Briefing Featuring Alan Dershowitz

    Location: Ordway Center for the Performing Arts 345 Washington Street, St. Paul, MN 55102

    Please join Center of the American Experiment at the 2018 Fall Briefing featuring Alan M. Dershowitz as he shares his thoughtful analysis of freedom of speech in an era of increasingly divisive and hostile political rhetoric. Dershowitz is one of the nation’s “most distinguished defenders of individual rights.” A graduate of Brooklyn College and Yale Law School, he joined the Harvard Law School faculty at age 25, the youngest in the school’s history, and became an Emeritus professor after 50 years of teaching and 10,000 students. Dershowitz has published more than 1,000 articles and authored 35 fiction and non-fiction works,…

    Register Now