September 25, 2017

It’s frustrating that with so many important issues on the table – North Korea, Obamacare repeal, tax reform, etc. – the weekend news was dominated by highly-paid sports figures showing disrespect to the National Anthem out of pique over President Trump’s comments about how they should be fired.

Before I dig into this, let’s get one point out of the way up front: no, telling players to knock it off or they’re fired would not be a violation of their First Amendment rights. The First Amendment protects you from government reprisals, it doesn’t give you carte blanche to say anything you want when you’re at work, especially when you’re in the company uniform and representing your employer to the public. Paragraph 2 of the standard NFL contract requires the player 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.”

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In other words, doing things that anger the fans and make them less likely to support the team is a violation of your contract. You can’t be jailed for saying things that tick off the customers, but you can be fired. That’s true of virtually any job. If Colin Kaepernick’s Fed Ex guy delivered a right-wing political rant with every package, I bet he’d be on the phone demanding that Fed Ex absolutely, positively can him.

And the NFL has already set a precedent of saying no to players who took a knee in prayer, wore T-shirts with Christian slogans on them or tried to put decals on their helmets in support of the police. It appears that in the NFL, freedom of speech only extends toward the left.

If you’d like to get deeper into the question of what would happen if the NFL did fire players for their political grandstanding, Sports Illustrated examined that in depth.



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Comments 1-37 of 37

  • sidney Nelson

    09/28/2017 07:47 AM

    Roger Goodell is unfit to lead. It is his job to protect owners&investments,paid players,fans&staff. You don't stand(or kneel)in the middle of the train tracks when there's a locomotive headed your way,you clear the tracks. When you don't nip it in the bud thorns will take over.He should be fired& uh as for Mr.Jerry Jones the fence straddle,remove him from hall of shame,sorry fame

  • Eric G. Carr

    09/28/2017 01:56 AM

    Unless those dissenters' views don't fit your "political narrative," Mr. Huckabee?

    "As a governor for ten and a half years, I followed the Constitution of my state and of the United States. The rule of law is a foundation of our democracy.

    But the reason why our laws are respected by the American people is because our Constitution guarantees reasonable safeguards to protect the rights of dissenters."

    - Mike Huckabee 9/18/2015

  • Michelle Harston

    09/27/2017 06:44 AM

    As a veteran, (and proudly one of the last of the WomensArmy Corps) the wife & daughter-in-law of career USAF veterans I am incensed every time our flag and nation are disrespected. How can someone make these fools see that they are hurting the symbol of the land that people died for? The land that gives them the right to protest? I do wish that the “SOB” part of President Trump’s remark was toned down. We have to be better than the other side!

  • Shirley Lyons

    09/27/2017 04:36 AM

    When an organization or a company inject POLITICAL or MORAL BELIEFS into their PRODUCT or SERVICES, they risk alienating half of their customers and if they do not care about those customers, then that lack of respect for THEIR BASE WILL take their money elsewhere! It is a shame that CUSTOMER BASED companies/organizations are driven by money only and NOT REPUTATIONS!

  • Brenda Fitzpatrick

    09/27/2017 01:40 AM

    It seems that any word is acceptable if used against Trump but President Trump is held to another standard. SOB seems to be the appropriate term in this case. I fully agree!

  • Charles D Lowry

    09/26/2017 05:09 PM

    I think President Trump has much courage and stands up for the American people, which I respect. I DO NOT agree with his habit of name-calling which makes matters worse, as well as creating a dialogue which is detrimental to his agenda. I believe we would be far better off without agitating people with his tweets!

  • Andrew Abare

    09/26/2017 05:04 PM

    I have been reading a lot about this whole issue. Some in support, but most against it. I cannot speak to what their contracts say because I have not seen them. I cannot speak to the success of the cause because that has yet to be determined (though they are getting a lot of attention, I think the original issue has been lost.) Is this a freedom of speech issue or an employee behavior issue? Do the players have the right to their actions because of the lives given by the people they are disrespecting? So many issues. So many angles. So many opinions.

    What I would like to say is that one look in the stands during the national anthem at any event (NFL, College football, High School Football, baseball, NBA, NASCAR, any event that plays the national anthem) and you will see people milling around, looking for their seats getting their snacks or headed to the restroom, talking, eating, you name it.

    I am afraid that this nation has been disrespecting the sacrifices of or armed forces and emergency responders to the god of "Me First" a long time ago.

  • Seth Brunetti

    09/26/2017 08:22 AM

    You gotta stand up for yourself and the "old way"; just like them law dogs in the 1960s with the bottle cap glasses that supported 25 years in prison for a marijuana cigarette... Whether the judge saw it that way is a different question, but that role sticks with a person!

  • Donna Sudbrook

    09/26/2017 06:06 AM

    If the NFL [MLB, NBA, NHL, PGA... insert name of Sports league here] and their team owners and their players would all just pay back the money that the City of Baltimore or Chicago or Detroit or [insert name of city here] has given them, so that for example Baltimore City could fix the water systems in their public schools so that big signs saying "Don't drink the water" due to lead in the water could be removed from above bathroom sinks, political expressions of concern that government needs to do more to support disadvantaged people would make more sense. Couldn't the hundreds of millions of dollars to support professional sports in Baltimore been used to rebuild / renovate / build new, every public school in Baltimore City instead? Would it really have made the NFL owners and players poor or just less rich? *************** "How Taxpayers Keep the NFL Rich....The league has long taken advantage of public dollars to pay for stadiums, hotel suites, and exorbitant salaries. The sport—and fans—would be better off if that ended."
    Lucas Jackson / Reuters GREGG EASTERBROOK DEC 8, 2015

  • Gay Nuckolls

    09/26/2017 03:02 AM

    Offended by the President use of profanity-SOB-offensive and inappropriate.
    He should raise the level of discourse not inflame and offend.

  • Laurel Christopher

    09/25/2017 11:44 PM

    Thank you Mike Huckabee for your level headed commentary on this totally controled by the left wing mentality people. It makes nothing better. Especially when sports teams and Coaches can't kneel to pray for Gods will to be done! I will not miss the NFL!!

  • JP

    09/25/2017 09:52 PM

    I still don’t get this..... what rules are they violating to get fired from? Is it because they won’t stand for the anthem? What rule states that? Please tell me how people who are against the way other people are being treated supposed to act? This is non-violent behavior, and people are sending death threats to them. This has gotten the attention of everyone, this is so much more powerful than anything else a person could have done. You may not agree with it, he’ll, I don’t agree with it. But they have the right to do this just as much as you have the right to boo them and send them death threats. Mr. Huckabee, that’s what makes this country what it is. You sir can criticize them without fear of prosecution from your government, one that you serve! They can also do this without fear of the same. Without fear of POTUS calling them SOB’s of all things. For once, just listen and not judge......

    You may surprise your own self.....

  • Lauralee Lindholm

    09/25/2017 09:26 PM

    Thank you for taking the time to write a concise and thoughtful article. I hope that many read it and that it helps set things straight.

  • sheila jarman

    09/25/2017 05:42 PM

    So are these teams protesting "Racial Injustice" ( Colin still can't find a job) or are you protesting because your team coach and team owner told you to be disrespectful. The wonderful thing about being an American is that there is "Liberty and Justice for all" but the rest of that saying is that your freedoms end where someone else's begin. If you want to change something you get proactive in a positive manner and stop being part of the problem. Don't come to the table and complain unless you are coming to the table with a solution. I hope that all these NFL teams coaches and owners understand that this disrespect of our Flag and National Anthem will not go away quietly and that many times there are severe consequences for your actions.

  • Karen Bozeman

    09/25/2017 05:32 PM

    We don't watch the NFL here, so they aren't going to miss my dollar. My question is-what changes have transpired as a result of all of this protesting? Are there better relationships being formed between blacks, whites, and Hispanics? Has racism stopped? Are the streets of America safer because people now have a greater respect for law enforcement? Has unemployment dropped as a direct result of these protests? I think we all know the answer to these questions. So all this nifty protesting isn't accomplishing anything other than destroying the fan base and maybe impacting teams financially. The jury is still out on that. So are they going to stop flying the flag and singing the National Anthem at sporting events to get this to stop? It won't surprise me if they do, but it will be a sad day in sports when it happens.
    And yes, you can get fired if you say/do things your employer doesn't care for. Look at the number of teachers that have been fired for posting some comment on a Facebook page that administrators deem inappropriate. You can get let go if you speak openly against homosexuals or their lifestyle--I've seen it happen. You can go to jail for texting inappropriate pictures and messages. The list goes on.
    We live in sad times.

  • Vivien Meleen

    09/25/2017 04:50 PM

    Agree with you completely we had professional standards to follow, including business functions, dinners and travel as we were at all times representatives of our company. We have family and friends who were in the military and first responders and I cannot imagine that any of those players do not have any personal ties to the military or first responders. Their behavior will not alter my belief that this is the greatest country and that is why I gave up my Singapore citizenship to be a proud US citizen.

  • Julie Johnson

    09/25/2017 04:14 PM

    If the liberal mindset could only stay calm long enough to realize this is a work ethics issue. If I showed up to work at my hospital, on the clock, in uniform and made political statements in front of patients, visitors and other staff, I would be fired. This is not about freedom of speech but rather conducting oneself in a professional manner that befits the employer and customers' expectations. I suppose if you are going to argue this one alone on the merits of free speech, then these players should also have the freedom to argue/protest play calling with the coaches, penalties with refs and talk smack to fellow players with no repercussions. Let's see how that floats... Sadly, it appears most of the ownership is too frightened of the internal backlash to hold their employees accountable. I am thinking we need to separate the word "professional" from football as it obviously no longer applies. I would surmise that basketball is about to follow suit.

  • Charles Harman

    09/25/2017 03:43 PM

    Giv. Huckabee: I don't think these folks necessarily should be fired, but I would like to see their respective organizations (or the NFL) fine them their game check every time they take a knee for the National Anthem. That would probably bring a swift end to these protests, and it might even bring a few football fans back.

  • Gil Gillis

    09/25/2017 03:40 PM


  • Dale Creelman

    09/25/2017 03:33 PM

    I made comment on my FB page and repeat it here. I would like to see you encourage the Honor Guards at all stadium events, use a donated, or borrowed flag from the coffin of a member of our military or a first responder that has died in action. And to announce it as such, on the PA system. It would be curious to see if it would make any difference.

  • Michelle Dickey

    09/25/2017 03:03 PM

    Thank you for pointing this out! I told a friend this morning if I had behaved unprofessionally according to a work contract I signed, I would be fired. Every place of employment has rules and policies. If you violate them, that is grounds for temination. Unfortunately, too many loop holes are in some policies and contracts that leave way too much room for 'self-interpretation', something far too prevalent on the left. For the NFL, this has gotten blown so far out of proportion, I don't know what comes next. I see the bigger picture and believe that if you support a team who is not participating in the protests, then why not continue supporting them? I will support my team because, like President Trump, they haven't given me a reason not to.

  • Robert Koseyan

    09/25/2017 02:44 PM

    Mike, well put. Think it’s time the NFL loses its tax exempt status..long overdue... and has its taxpayer funded stadiums deals renegotiated. Please pass the idea onto the President.

  • Robert Sullo

    09/25/2017 02:29 PM

    We are an imperfect country but standing for the National Anthem and the flag it represents is not an acceptance of those imperfections but an acceptance and acknowledgement of the Ideals they represent. Shame on the NFL and the Owners.

  • Connie Barbour

    09/25/2017 02:11 PM

    You make an important point about the team owners and their right to fire players; however, the ones who allow the continued employment of these players are just as bad as the players who are taking a knee. The only way the NFL and team owners would get the message would be if revenue would drastically decline. The problem is that too many fans just don't care enough to send that message.

  • Leah

    09/25/2017 02:10 PM

    Trump should not have called the players SOBs, but just as they want to have the right to kneel he has the right to voice his opinion. Should he use more decorum in how he speaks? Yes, but the fact is he doesn't. He's not the one doing the dividing. He's adding to the drama, sure.

    Thank you for posting this. People do not know Paragraph 2 exists.

  • Amy Allen

    09/25/2017 02:06 PM

    I believe you should stand for the National Anthem. President Trump I do support him but should not have called a name when he said what he had said, believe me people are saying alot worse about the take the knee players. Our President loves our nation and our Troops past present and future and he talks about out military and VETERANS with great love and passion. And out nation has been divided for a long time way before President Trump decided to run. Praying for our nation this will eventually blow over !

  • Esther Naholowaa

    09/25/2017 01:52 PM

    Thank you for this perspective of common sense. It seems we've become a nation of 'gray'. We've blurred the lines of right and wrong so much that everything feels gray - nothing is really 'wrong' anymore. It's the devils intention to confuse rights from wrongs, and it's helpful to know that I'm not in the minority of thought (so it seems) by myself. Let's stay strong together, the LORD's plan will prevail. Thanks again Mike, I appreciate your postings.

  • Ronnie B. Jones, Sr.

    09/25/2017 01:45 PM

    I quit watching the NFL last year and I don't miss it one bit. College Football has always interested me more. The players are treated a little extra special on campus but they are not paid. In most cases, they play for pride both individual and for their schools. As a matter-of-fact, I've stopped wasting my time watching any Paid Players except NASCAR. If one of those good-old-boys, starts acting like an NFL player, I hope the other drivers accidentally put him into the wall.

  • Patsy Lee

    09/25/2017 01:39 PM

    I never liked football so I never watched it. But it seems to me the fans treat it like a social event not really a sport event. There are parties and tailgating and drinking. NFL have a lot of supporters true but there are also a lot of proud Americans that are leaving this social club. Take away this growing number of disenchanted sports/social event supporters and team owners are not going to pull in as much money and these players salaries will probably be reduced. The players in the end are hurting themselves. Hey all you disenchanted football fans, NASCAR still stands for the anthem.

  • Mackie Braden

    09/25/2017 01:37 PM

    This behavior is at the least, inappropriate. Second, it's vague. The motion does not convey their point of disagreement.
    The NFL is coddling these wealthy employees whose job is to entertain the public. The market should take care of the problem: Smaller gate, fewer sponsors. Lower ratings, we shall see....

  • Laura McKenzie

    09/25/2017 01:34 PM

    Right with you on this, Mike! Thanks for the info!


    09/25/2017 01:26 PM

    Mike, I want to state a very common knowledge statement. RESPECT is earned, it's not a given. Our national Anthem is the ONE thing EVERY American should be proud to stand for. When that stops and they're on their knees in protest, then they should quit their unfulfilled jobs and seek a job and or living arrangements elsewhere. Like someone said.............LET THOSE SAME NFL PLAYERS GO INTO THE TERRIBLE CITIES WHERE THEY CAN CONTRIBUTE TIME AND MONEY TO HELP THEIR FELLOW BLACK MAN. They are hypocrites and SHOULD be fired permanently.

  • Michael a lippy

    09/25/2017 01:25 PM

    Thank you Gov. Huckabee, for your honesty and insight.

  • Jack McCollister

    09/25/2017 01:25 PM

    The NFL should enforce their rule.......

    As you can see below, this NFL RULE is not new. It was always upheld in the past, so WTH?
    *The specific rule pertaining to the national anthem is found on pages A62-63 of the league rulebook. It states:
    "The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.
    "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."::

  • April Allison-Garlow

    09/25/2017 01:18 PM

    My brother is a retired law enforcement officer and Army veteran---when they insult the police --it matters, my husband spent 4 years in Vietnam, my father fought in WWII and Korea--when they insult our flag and our country in such a disrespectful and inappropriate way--it's personal. If the NFL chooses to look the other way when the players engage in domestic abuse, murder, animal killing, DWI's,drug abuse,gun offenses, and still employ them --it shows the character of Goodell and the owners. That is for them to deal with along with law enforcement. But when they spit on my family there is an anger that the NFL doesn't understand. Will never watch it again!
    Like · Reply · Just now

  • Sherry Hofmann

    09/25/2017 01:10 PM

    I couldn't have said it better myself.
    Thank you for putting it out there for everyone to see!

  • Carol Lee Pattridge

    09/25/2017 12:47 PM

    I've said it is like when I was working for Walmart . I don't like alcohol or smoking but if I refused to ring up those items I would have been fired