On Tuesday, the NFL Players Association announced that it would file a grievance on behalf of kneeling players. The NFLPA stated:
The union’s claim is that this new policy, imposed by the NFL‘s governing body without consultation with the NFLPA, is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights. In advance of our filing today, we proposed to the NFL to begin confidential discussions with the NFLPA Executive Committee to find a solution to this issue instead of immediately proceeding with litigation. The NFL has agreed to proceed with those discussions and we look forward to starting them soon.
Now, why would it violate the collective bargaining agreement for the NFL to mandate that if players come onto the field during the national anthem, they must stand for the anthem? It doesn’t. NFL contracts include this provision:
He agrees to give his best efforts and loyalty to the Club, and to conduct himself on and off the field with appropriate recognition of the fact that the success of professional football depends largely on public respect for and approval of those associated with the game.
Now, it’s arguable as to whether kneeling for the anthem ought to diminish respect for and approval of the game — but there’s little question that from the NFL’s perspective, it has. The NFL’s ratings are down, polls show wide disapproval for kneeling for the anthem, and it’s perfectly sensible to create rules that both respect NFL players who don’t want to stand for the anthem and the NFL’s rights to present a public product that doesn’t alienate fans.
But the NFLPA wants its headlines, and it will get its headlines. President Trump, to be sure, will be overjoyed at the continuation of this controversy. The NFL, on the other hand, won’t.