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Kneeling NFL Players Seem to Have Labor Law on Their Side

By: Teri Bernstein


 Trevor Noah reports on NFL players kneeling (language warning)


Noam Scheiber, writing in the NYT, has researched labor law regarding the recent kneeling done by athletes during the national anthem. Is it legal? Should the NFL stop it? His take-away: 


"How far can workers go in banding together to address problems related to their employment?...In principle, the answer in the N.F.L. and elsewhere may be: Quite far. To the extent that most people think about the reach of federal labor law, they probably imagine a union context — like organizing workers, or bargaining as a group across the table from management. As it happens, the law is much more expansive, protecting any 'concerted activities' that employees engage in to support one another in the workplace, whether or not a union is involved."


I am reminded somewhat of the "I'm Spartacus" scene in the Stanley Kubrick film starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier. There is strength in numbers, and solidarity can sometimes help shift the balance of power.


Source: "NFL Player may have an ally in their protests: Labor law," by Noam Scheiber, New York Times, October 12, 2017. 



  • What conditions need to be present in a "concerted action"? Do you think the kneeling action falls within these parameters?
  • Are you required to say the Pledge of Allegiance, or listen to the national anthem at the beginning of the work day? If so, are your behaviors during these activities evaluated as compliant or non-compliant?  Explain how this is incorporated into your job performance.  If you are not required to perform any sort of ritual allegiance, state how you would behave and how you would feel if you were required. How would you manage employees subject to these ritual requirements? 
  • If you are familiar with the film, how does the action taken by NFL players compare and contract with the "I'm Spartacus" scene from the Stanley Kubrick film?