Dean Sullivan Quoted in ESPN as Legal Employment Expert On NFL Players Benching


 

 

But does Jerry Jones, or any other owner, have the right to bench a player for protesting during the anthem? Could such a benching be a violation of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement or, beyond that, could it even be illegal?

For its part, the NFL Players Association issued a statement that said in part, "We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects." A benching of this type would certainly prompt the NFLPA to file a grievance under the CBA.

The players seem to have some built-in advantages in such a dispute. Unlike the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, the NFL CBA does not specifically require players to stand for the anthem. There is, however, a section in the NFL Game Operations Manual that mentions that players "should stand at attention, hold helmets in their left hand and refrain from talking." And commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to teams on Tuesday reiterating the language.

According to a half-dozen experts we contacted, workplace employment law may have the last word. While the experts are divided on who would win such a legal battle, our sample ruled narrowly in favor of the owners.

Charles Sullivan, professor of law, Seton Hall University: "Where I think the players have a problem is there's not really an adverse employment action if they are simply benched. They are still being paid, and I don't think they necessarily have the right to play in games."
Advantage: Owners

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