NFL Players Assn. files grievance against league on Trump-inspired anthem policy

WASHINGTON—In a move to push pro football owners to the bargaining table, the NFL Players Association formally filed a non-injury grievance challenging the validity of the NFL’s new national anthem policy – the one that would effectively ban kneeling in protest — on multiple grounds.

 

And as a result, the owners called the NFLPA to initiate talks about the ban, the union’s statement said.

 

The owners decided earlier this year to quell the ongoing controversy over players kneeling during playing of the anthem. The kneeling, started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, was designed to draw attention to – and open discussion about – police killings of unarmed young African-American men. League rosters are almost three-quarters African-American.

 

But almost all the owners are white, and so is GOP President Donald Trump, who reacted with outrage, declaring owners should fire players who kneel. Tens of thousands of white fans were angry. The 49ers released Kaepernick, despite decent statistics, and he hasn’t caught on with another team.

 

The grievance, however, is over the league’s whole policy, which orders players either to stay in their locker rooms while the anthem plays, or, if they come onto the field, stand. Its policy is widely viewed as knuckling under to Trump.

 

“Our union filed its non-injury grievance today on behalf of all players challenging the NFL’s recently imposed anthem policy. The union’s claim is that this new policy, imposed by the NFL’s governing body without consultation with the NFLPA, is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights,” the NFLPA said.

 

“In advance of our filing today, we proposed to the NFL to begin confidential discussions with the NFLPA Executive Committee to find a solution to this issue instead of immediately proceeding with litigation. The NFL has agreed to proceed with those discussions and we look forward to starting them soon.”

 

With the league changing the policy without first negotiating with the union, it will need to rely on the broad powers given to Commissioner Roger Goodell, through its personal conduct policy. That lets Goodell ban “conduct detrimental” to pro football, including banning kneeling during the anthem.

 

The NFLPA argues the peaceful take-a-knee action during the playing of the national anthem does not qualify as “conduct detrimental” to the integrity of or public confidence in the National Football League.

 

And the union also contends kneeling during the anthem does not qualify as detrimental conduct, since the NFL said before players had the right to use their platform to elevate issues important to them. The new policy, the union argues, could set a dangerous disciplinary precedent that would allow teams to penalize players for other forms of peaceful demonstrations, including prayer.

 

Under Article 43 of the NFLPA’s collective bargaining agreement, teams have the right to implement “reasonable club rules,” which typically include fines for various violations, including missing team meetings or workouts.

 

If the two sides can’t agree within 10 days on how to resolve the union’s grievance, the NFLPA has the right to take it to a panel of four, mutually selected, neutral arbitrators. Typically, hearings take place within 30 days, but class-action grievances can take several months to resolve.

 

In response, the league did not address the grievance. Instead, it touted joint work with the NFLPA on a fund set up to address issues the players care about.

 

The players’ union has not ruled out a potential legal challenge of the policy through city and state courts where statutes or legislation exists prohibiting such workplace rules similar to the anthem policy.

Source: PAI