New Orleans I guess no one should be surprised if the owner of the Dallas Cowboys football team occasionally acts like a fool cowboy, but I quickly want to say I mean no offense to cowboys themselves.
In the wake of many players pushing back on the President in order to raise attention to the issues of discrimination against African-Americans and repeated incidents of police brutality, Jerry Jones, first tried to organize the players on his team by taking a knee with them before the anthem and then all standing for the anthem. Now, failing to have his players respond as chattel, he is threatening to unilaterally fire any player on the team who protests during the anthem. An ESPN sportscaster suggested in a tweet twice that advertisers for the Cowboys team should boycott them until Jones steps back and realizes that his players are grown men with the right of free speech. She’s been suspended, but she was on the right track.
Meanwhile, the tweeter-in-chief puts the hook on his vice-president, watching his home team play a game in Indianapolis, and pulls him away from the game because players for the San Francisco 49ers were protesting and taking the knee. Many argue that this is just a Trump distraction from his failing presidency, but it all has real life consequences. Colin Kapernick, the former 49er quarterback who started these protests last season, is clearly being blacklisted – and Jones is going out of his way to prove the case with his threats – is so desperate to be hired that reportedly he said he would stand for the anthem if that’s what it took to get a job.
But, here’s my question? Where is the union in all of this? The NFL Players Association should be right in the middle of this mess.
Jones is claiming that he has the right to threaten his players and dismiss them because of some stray language he and his people found in the NFL Code of Conduct. So what? There’s no way that some forgotten and unenforced language in the code that even the league was not requiring would supersede the collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners. There is no way that such a firing would constitute “just cause” under the contract, and the union needs to speak up and say so.
Furthermore, contract or no contract, to threaten players for taking concerted action on the job is an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act. Why isn’t the union filing charges now in Dallas to protect the workers? It is against the law to threaten, coerce and intimidate workers for concerted activity, so the union needs to file the charges at the labor board.
It is also against the law to fire or blackball a worker for concerted activity, so why hasn’t the union filed charges for Kapernick? There’s wide consensus and extensive commentary that indicates, particularly at this point in the season, that with quarterback injuries, objective criteria would have a number of teams picking him up to fill a gap, whether as starter or reserve.
The NFL can’t seem to teach us how to play safely, but the least the players can teach everyone in America is that the league – and the country – need to play fair. There’s a law. Make them follow it!