Employment Law in the News: Can NFL Players Be Fired Over Protests?

An intriguing question regarding unlawful termination has been making headlines lately: Are NFL team owners legally able to fire players who use time on the field to protest social injustices? Despite the urgings of the 45 th President, whether or not an NFL owner can let a player go because of protests is a bit more complicated than simply saying, “You’re fired.” Employment lawyers serving San Jose, CA would defer to the player’s contract and the collective bargaining agreement when determining whether a termination is unlawful or not.

In the typical workplace, an at-will employee can be fired at any time for any reason, as long as the termination does not arise from discrimination based on a protected class. Employees who work under a contract, such as NFL athletes, can only be fired under the terms specified in the contract. The typical NFL contract requires athletes to conduct themselves in a manner that befits the “public respect.” It’s possible for an NFL owner to fire an athlete if he or she claims that the athlete’s protests have diminished the public respect. However, since fans are about evenly split between disliking the protests and appreciating the true meaning behind them, the athlete could possibly argue that protesting in such a way actually upholds the public respect.

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