Owners Crumple Like Cheap Suits to Trump, Attacking NFL Players

NFL Players Strike 1987

New Orleans  After days of reading, hearing, and watching Jerry Jones, the big whoop and owner of the Dallas Cowboys, threaten his players with benching and job jeopardy, Local 100 United Labor Unions filed charges with Region 16 of the National Labor Relations Board in Fort Worth, Texas charging Jones and the NFL Cowboys with violations of the National Labor Relations Act which protects the concerted or collective actions of all private sector workers taking action with or without a union, under or outside of a collective bargaining agreement, in seeking to protect their working conditions, wages, and hours. Our charge was simple. An employer is forbidden by the Act from threatening, coercing, and intimidating workers in their rights to act together, and that is precisely what Jones was doing with public impunity in all available media outlets.

Within hours we were talking to sports reporters for ESPN, various CBS affiliates, and of course the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. We were in the Sporting News. The story was bigger than Dallas and Texas. With only 10.7% of US workers now in unions, a lot of these conversations were 101-courses in basic American labor law that protects workers on the job, whether they exercise these rights or not. These are also pretty clearly the kind of basic lectures that NFL owners and their staff need to attend as well, before theses elderlies get a strain trying to thump their chests and reprise what they remember as schoolyard bullies from their youth.

Jones’ remarks are an effort to unilaterally change the working conditions of his players. The collective bargaining agreement also forbids rule changes once training camps end. The NFL rules indicate that players “should” stand, not that they “shall” stand. As their legion of lawyers can tell them, if they will listen, that’s permissive, not mandatory language. Furthermore, the NFL has absorbed these protests for over a year once begun by Colin Kapernick with the 49ers. No one has been disciplined, though Kapernick seems to be blackballed. The Commissioner has publicly indicated that he understands the protest against police brutality and racial injustice. Numerous owners and almost all coaches have supported their players. Why are the owners now attacking the players, and buckling to President Trump’s tweets?

Don’t for a minute believe that this isn’t racial on Trump’s part and another dog whistle to his hater-base. 70% of the NFL rosters are African-American. There’s a reason he’s hosting almost all-white hockey teams at the White House, while NBA and NFL professionals with a growing racial sensitivity are standing up to Trump.

Don’t for a minute believe this is about the symbols like the national anthem and the flag. The right to associate, speak, and protest injustice are fundamental cornerstones of our Constitution and the core of what it means to be American and fight for freedom. The anthem is just a song and the flag is a peace of cloth. These are significant symbols of our country, but there should be no confusion. They have no meaning if they are somehow elevated over our basic and fundamental freedoms. When the owners talk about substituting the players’ rights for contributions to some nonprofits, their lack of understanding and respect for our country is just embarrassing to contemplate since they seem to equate everything with a penny on the dollar.

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 translates these freedoms to the workplace. The players’ workplace is the football field. The owners need to respect the players, respect the law, and respect what America means, and back the heck off.

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Jerry Jones is Breaching the NFL Players’ Contract and Violating Labor Law

Members of the Indianapolis Colts take a knee during the nation anthem before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

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!

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