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NFL Players Have No First Amendment Right to Protest

Contact: Liberty Counsel, 407-875-1776, news/Media@LC.org; Press Kit

  

ORLANDO, Fla., Sept. 28, 2017 /Christian Newswire/ -- While the issue of NFL players protesting the National Anthem is not an issue that Liberty Counsel has publicly commented on, the First Amendment is a core issue for Liberty Counsel.

We have heard many people claim that the athletes have a First Amendment right to kneel in protest of the National Anthem and injustice, but this is not accurate. In order for the First Amendment to apply to any situation, there must be a government actor on one side and a private person, group or organization on the other side. In the NFL context, there is no government actor and thus, there is no First Amendment concern.

The NFL and the various teams are private and the players are private actors. The players have no First Amendment right to protest during their employment, including during the game. Interestingly, the NFL's operations manual addresses the National Anthem as follows:

    "During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses."

"Had the NFL chosen to enforce its own operations manual that requires players to respect the National Anthem by being on the field, standing and otherwise showing respect, the continuing protest would cease," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. "The players have no First Amendment right to protest. The NFL has refused to allow players to wear decals or armbands or engage in other protests or show of support without prior approval. If the NFL or the football teams want to stop the protests, they have the right to do so," said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.