NFL players union fights against owners’ attempts to bench players who don’t stand

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith fired shots at league team owners who were not allowing players to protest “without retribution.”

Smith released a statement Monday asserting that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the chair of the NFL Management Council, John Mara, had unquestionably assured union leaders that the “Constitutional rights” of players would not be violated.

“Last week, both the Commissioner and the Chair of NFL Management Council John Mara were clear when they assured our union leaders, in the presence of other owners, that they would respect the Constitutional rights of our members without retribution,” Smith said in the statement, just hours after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones announced his players would be benched for disrespecting the flag during the national anthem.

While players and owners like Giants owner, Mara, have met several times recently to address the protests by some NFL players who choose to kneel, sit or anything but stand during the playing of the national anthem, others have warned against the actions. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Washington owner Dan Snyder have addressed the issue with their players as has Jones.

“If there’s anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play,” Jones told the Cowboys players following their loss to the Green Bay Packers. “Understand? We will not … if we are disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period.”

I look forward to the day when everyone in Management can unite and truly embrace what the Flag stands for: “Liberty and Justice for All” instead of some of them just talking about standing,” Smith continued in his statement. “We look forward to continuing our talks with them on this very issue.”

Of course, those who agree with Smith continue the cry for “Constitutional rights” while missing the point that the players are making their political statements while on the job. Protest supporters fail to provide another example of a workplace that would allow employees to take a political stand in the form of a protest during work hours and on work property.

One angry NFL fan addressed the Baltimore Ravens football team in a scathing rebuke on video, calling on players to take their “millionaire butts” off the field and make room for others who would “appreciate doing what you have the honor and privilege of doing every day.”

“No player is disrespecting our Country or our Flag. As thousands have shown in the past, it takes bravery and courage to speak and confront these issues, as our players have, especially when it is unpopular with some,” Smith concluded in his statement. “There is room for Management to do the same and maybe then players do not have to risk the taunts and threats alone. This is their opportunity to lead as well and be a true test of their motto that ‘Football is Family.’”

Vice President Mike Pence apparently did not agree, as he abruptly left Sunday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers after players knelt during the national anthem. Pence explained that he chose to “not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”

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Frieda Powers

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