Sorry, NFL, You DON’T Have an Unassailable ‘Right’ to Protest the National Anthem

There has been a lot of pious talk from these anti-American leftists who now seem to infest the National Football League who say that they “have a right” to protest the national anthem at the start of each NFL game. But the fact is they really don’t.

Thanks to the sham that is America’s liberal besotted system of miseducation, there is a lot of confusion about what our “rights” as Americans are. So, let’s get this straight right now. You have no “right” to behave however you want at work. And if you DO behave however you want, you had better be prepared for consequences including being fired if your boss sees fit.

But, what of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, you ask? Doesn’t that “free speech” thingie give you a right to say whatever you want, whenever you want?

No, not really. At least, not in the way you might assume.

First we need to define what a “right” is. A right is something given to you by your creator, something no one can take away. It is, as the founders said, “inalienable,” or it can’t be alienated from or taken away from you.

However, a right also cannot impinge on someone else. This means that your rights must not require someone else to do something to “give” you your rights. This, for instance, is why healthcare cannot be a right. After all, if healthcare were a right, then a doctor or nurse would be required to treat you no matter what they want to do as individuals. So, if healthcare were a right, then you are necessarily taking away the freedom of choice from a healthcare provider because they would not be allowed to turn away from you or decide to treat you in a different way. Their rights as individuals would be eliminated in favor of your “right” to healthcare.

Since your right cannot force others to act, healthcare cannot be a right. Get it?

Now, let’s get to the national anthem protests sweeping across the NFL.

Players have been insisting that they have a “right” to indulge their statements of hate for America.

At one level, that is correct.

But the truth is, these super rich, multi-millionaire players are wrong on a more important level because they maintain that because it is their right to protest against the country, no one should do anything to stop them from doing it and there should be no consequences for their protests.

That contention is wrong.

Sure, the players have a right to take a knee and protest the U.S.A., its flag, its history, its soldiers, cops, and first responders. But they also must be prepared to suffer the consequences.

You see, neither the fans, nor the NFL’s team owners, nor the league itself are under an obligation to meekly accept the players’ protest without responding the way THEY see fit to respond.

The NFL is not a political entity fully controlled by government. It is a private organization. That means the NFL as a league and the owners as individuals can, within reason, make all the rules they want to stop such protests. And guess what? Such rules DO NOT violate the players’ free speech.


Because while players may be barred from speaking out at work and on the field, they are not barred for saying anything they want off the field. In other words, their freedom of speech is not quashed because they are barred from speaking out at work because they can talk all they want on their own time.

There is another aspect to this, as well. In truth, the ONLY entity that can quash free speech is a government. And our First Amendment is set up to stop government from passing laws to stop people from speaking their political opinions and ideas.

This came about because the founders came from a land where King and crown determined what political speech was allowable by the people. The founders felt those restrictions were an affront to God. So, they set up a system where no one’s political ideas would be quashed by government.

Finally, we get to the other consequences of free speech: the reaction.

Even if anthem protests were “free speech” — which they aren’t — it is ALSO free speech for the fans to hate the protests, to complain about the protests if they want, and to stop patronizing the NFL. Fans are under no obligation at all to support the NFL if they dislike the anthem protests that have metastasized like a cancer throughout the league.

The fans also have free speech to tell the NFL to shove it.

So, while the players may still want to protest, they do so at the risk of their livelihoods. The fans have every right to quit their NFL habits and that, in turn, will end up depriving the players of money and the opportunity to play a kid’s game for a job as the money spent by fans dries up.

And that, folks, is how free speech works.

Finally, let me say this: Isn’t it funny how the left thinks protesting against the U.S. during the national anthem should be allowed as “free speech,” but on the other hand they want those who complain about the protests to shut up? Free speech only works in favor of leftists, apparently.

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  • Scalia

    Good post, Warner.

    • Brett Buck

      It’s a very good post, and necessary only because so many people (after being misled for so many years) don’t seem to grasp the notion that “the right of free speech” is different than “the right to free speech and everybody else shut up””.

      • Scalia

        They also don’t understand the distinction between a restriction on government and a restriction on a private corporation. As Warner notes, the First Amendment restricts the former, not the latter.

        • Brett Buck

          I suspect that it because they don’t grasp the concept of an action that is not controlled by the government. The notion that they can say something and have private citizens/groups/companies could respond without some applicable law being broken is a foreign concept. In their world, something (like human interaction) that is not in control or subject to direction and control by the government is something flawed.

        • Par4Course

          With all the subsidies for its stadiums, perhaps a legal argument could be constructed that what the NFL does should be deemed state action. : )

          • Brett Buck

            I am sure you could argue that, but I don’t see it. Cities/counties signing stadium funding contracts with teams is more a stupidity problem than a constitutional problem.

            Both of our local baseball teams have or are going to build parks with their own money. Both football teams have monstrosities of public funding contracts that completely screw the taxpayers (and the Raiders seemt o be in the middle of yet another one, fortunately with the suckers taxpayers of Las Vegas instead of Oakland again).

          • WHO’S THE BUSTER

            The Chargers are in a similar spot. San Diego would not fund a new stadium so they are now the second team in LA that nobody cares about. They cannot fill a small soccer stadium. They will either have to build a new facility with private money in San Diego or find a new landing spot. I hear St. Louis could use a team.

      • Retired military

        “the right to free speech and everybody else shut up””.

        you mean

        “the right to free speech and everybody else shut up and oh by the way keep on paying us the same millions of dollars you have been”

    • Paul Hooson

      Indeed, Warner’s assertion that fans also have the right to protest these protests by the players is a very valid point. Fans pay to watch a game, not seeing our nation being disrespected like this…

  • Retired military

    They have a right to protest the anthem.
    They also have a right to be pissed about a paycut when folks tune out and don’t go to the games and stop buying their crap.
    They can be pissed all they want. It doesn’t matter. When you kill the golden goose there are consequences.
    However, they don’t have a right to keep on collecting the same pay with no consequences.


    I have no doubt a lot of the owners would like to fire a number of players, especially those at the bottom of the roster, but are declaring support as a business decision.

    In retrospect, I bet they wish someone had given Kaepernick a job (who also claimed he was willing to stand as of this year) and this may have all gone away.

    Per game viewers and attendance are declining for almost all sports (check the yearly ratings for NASCAR over the past decade) for a variety of reasons. Football may be able to withstand this decline more than other sports (although ESPN will surely suffer for overpaying, while underestimating cord-cutting) simply because football truly is America’s favorite sport. Of course, due to over-saturation it is becoming a more regional sport. It wasn’t that long ago that you could watch a couple of games on Sunday and a game on Monday night. Now? Thursday night, four games on Sunday afternoon and a game on Sunday night, in addition to the long running Monday night game.

    While fantasy football is somewhat of a saving grace, it certainly makes watching an entire game unnecessary. The Red Zone is now becoming very popular. There is only eleven minutes of actual “playing” during the entirety of a typical NFL game. How do I now watch a game? Set the DVR and tune in an hour after the start time and zip through the game in a very short time. Most people I know now watch the same way and that does not enhance advertising revenues.

    People will understandably be upset by the current protests, but most will not stop watching the games. Heck, my home team, the Detroit Lions have been a train wreck for most of my life and they routinely sell out games. People celebrated hockey, basketball and baseball championships in Detroit, but if the same old Lions won the Super Bowl the celebration would dwarf all of the others. Baseball may have been America’s pastime for years, but this country is truly in love with football.

    What is a bigger threat to the sport? CTE. Most of us played youth football, and it is almost mandatory in the South, but the participation is quickly declining. One of the obscure networks has a show called Friday Night Tykes, complete with parents that behave in a manner that is horrific. I find when I watch these eight year olds ram their heads together it makes me cringe and sometimes has elements of child abuse. Especially when you realize many of these children are only playing because their parents demand they participate. Additionally, recent research is indicating that much of the damage done to the brain takes place early in life, which probably should not be that surprising.

    • Scalia

      Your post is off-topic. You should have posted it under an open thread. Perhaps you assumed it was open because the other recent ones have been.

      Now, do you have a comment on the topic?

  • Rdm42

    You know what arguably DOES violate the first amendment good and hard? Hate speech laws. Much of campaign laws. Basically all of those instances where the liberal-beloved government is, in fact, trying to regulate what we can and cannot say. It is emphatically not encompassed by the reactions and free choices and responses of citizens that are not reacting with the force of law, but with the law of unintended consequences. Say what you like, yes – but be ready to face the music in return.

  • I, for one, am glad to see that rumors of your Wizbang Death were exaggerated.

    • Scalia

      Hear, hear!

  • Brian Brandt

    Rush Limbaugh posed a question on his radio show today that knocks a hole in the “1st Amendment” angle of the NFL protests –

    How much of a 1st Amendment right would a player have if he came running onto the field carrying a Confederate flag (before they fired him)?

    • Scalia

      That’s a great observation. There is not the slightest doubt that the Left would howl in rage if NFL players and coaches waived Confederate flags and locked arms in support of free speech.


        There is certainly no shortage of them at college football games played in the South.

        • Scalia

          Football players or fans?

        • And you “know” this how?

          • WHO’S THE BUSTER

            I watch a lot of games.

            The history of the confederate flag and Southern football is intertwined. The University of Mississippi finally toned down the Colonel Reb caricature when the coach lost to Mississippi State and remarked that he could not recruit “Negro” players with that representation of the university. The fans, on the other hand, did not go down quietly and preferred the “old” version of Colonel Rep. They eliminated the depiction of the Confederate flag from the Colonel, but a state legislator presented a bill to restore him in his former glory as recently as 2012. There is even a Colonel Reb Foundation that is supported by students and alumni.


          • WHO’S THE BUSTER
  • pennywit

    If one of my employees engages in political activism, within the law, on company time, I might fire him. Or I might not. If one of my employees engages in political activism, within the law, on company time, and a politician — whether president, governor, mayor, or whatever — says that I should fire my employee for political activism, I would keep that employee on, just to let the politician know that he doesn’t get to pass judgment on political speech and that he doesn’t get to dictate my hiring practices.


      I forbid any discussion of religion or politics in the work space. It has become impossible to have civil political discussions and no one changes their mind and it ultimately leads to hard feelings. That, in turn, hurts productivity and teamwork that can affect the bottom line. It is simply a decision based on pragmatism.

      I had one employee who insisted on ending phone calls with, “Have a blessed day.” While it is ultimately harmless, I mentioned that a simple good bye would suffice as this is a place of business, and only business, and business is secular. We worship profits.

      I don’t look at their Facebook accounts or Twitter feeds, mainly because I am old and don’t participate in social media, but I am sure the day will come when I have to consider if employees are no longer compatible due to their social media postings.

      I had to tell my nieces that when they started to apply for positions in the corporate world that they had to make their Facebook pages boring. No bikini pics or photos of them at parties with a beer in hand. It took a while to make them see the light.

      Years ago I owned a placement company that specialized in medical and pharmaceutical sales positions and my advice was to err to the side of conservative. For men, any color shirt as long as it is white, lace up shoes and a dark blue suit that was “not” cutting edge. If they did not remember what you wore, great. For women, no bare shoulders, minimal make-up, no perfume, small earrings, nude hose and sensible shoes. Lastly, that tattoo that seemed like a good idea, well, figure out a way to cover it up for the entirety of your career.

      Pfizer, the strictest of all of the companies in the medical industry had an illustration at their headquarters that outlined how an employee should be dressed and if they were not compliant they should go home. They even insisted that male reps wear their suit coats when they were driving the company car. Ridiculous? Well sure, but that is why they were referred to as “Pfizer’s Army.” In fact, they favored hiring people with military experience. It was their ball, so they make the rules. Now this was many years ago, but I doubt much has changed.

      Of course some things have changed, I worked at Upjohn in the early eighties and I was one of the few Protestants as most of the company was Catholic and at regional and/or national meetings some form of church attendance was expected. An opening or closing prayer at these meetings was the norm. I left the company, but I doubt that behavior lasted much longer. Of course they also supplied copious amounts of liquor after every meeting and that probably changed as well.

      I agree with many posters that freedom of speech does not mean they are free from consequences and many people do not grasp that concept.

      • Vagabond661

        What do you do when someone sneezes?

        • pennywit

        • WHO’S THE BUSTER

          I don’t feel it is religious in nature, but merely something people have always said; no different than, “Oh, my God.”

          To do otherwise would be ridiculous and punitive. That is different than ending a phone call with a customer and closing with, “Have a blessed day.” That indicates we are a Christian company, we are not aligned with any religion and do business with people that are of many different religions, or none at all.

          It is for the same reason that there will be no discussion of religion or politics at work, it is not relevant to work and only leads to tension and animosity. This has been true for a long time. It reminds me of a friend I have played golf with for over twenty years. I honestly did not know his politics for most of that time and then a few years ago he became very vocal about his political opinions. We quickly decided there was no reason to continue these discussions and got back to, “I am 150 yards from the pin, what club do you recommend?” Since he is far more adept at the game I value his opinion on these matters.

          In the current political environment we have all witnessed friends, family members and even spouses develop hard feelings about their political positions.

          I certainly remember when a “mixed” marriage was never defined as a union of a Democrat and a Republican.

          • Vagabond661

            So based on your answer, I assume you think the players are wrong here. The reason I say that is surely this knee shit isn’t helping the company they work for. Even the NFL has strict rules on uniform and a player promoting his own causes.

          • WHO’S THE BUSTER

            I don’t care what the players do; I watch the games. I believe they are generally well-intentioned.

            The NFL has no strict rules regarding this behavior, the NBA on the other hand, does.

          • Scalia

            You don’t care what the players do? Well, Odell Beckham just got slapped with as 12K fine for his “celebration”:


            I think he’ll be able to appeal and say he was simply protesting President Trump.

          • WHO’S THE BUSTER

            He is a jackass who embarrassed himself and the team. Too bad he is such a good player.

            I am sure he just lost a number of endorsements. The 15 yard penalty also did not endear him to his teammates.

      • Scalia

        I’m stunned. I actually agree with you. I need counseling.

    • Scalia

      I would keep that employee on, just to let the politician know that he doesn’t get to pass judgment on political speech and that he doesn’t get to dictate my hiring practices.

      Perhaps, but if the governor, mayor or president were influential and his right to speak negatively affected your business, you’d probably reassess your stand. That’s just one of the reasons companies forbid their employees from engaging in activities that might cast the company in a negative light.

      NFL owners need to kick their brain in gear. Their players are insulting the country, and it’s gotten the attention of the president. They certainly have the right to allow their players to protest, but others, including the president have the right to criticize them for it. If NFL owners start losing money, look for the political bans to start coming fast and furious.

    • Jwb10001

      And if that employee was pissing off your other employees? Or if that employee sparked others to engage during working hours in counter activism? You know these things are never civil anymore, what then? Who cares what the president says, seams to me that’s really meaningless. The issue to me is how it effects the workplace, other employees, customers. Do you think everyone on all these NFL teams support these antics? I doubt it. What do you suppose the outcome would be if they decided enough is enough and counter protested? There is no place for this behavior in the workplace, come to work, do your job, bitch on your own time. If they want to make a political statement go on TV, ESPN would be happy to have them come spout off all they want. That’s how you use your platform to effect change, you make a name for yourself and address your issue in a PROPER setting. Call a press conference away from the work place and bitch to high heaven, but please, please stop infesting every aspect of life with divisive political antics.

  • Walter_Cronanty

    Welcome back, Warner.

  • pennywit
    • We care about the Washington comPost why?

      • pennywit

        Open the link and you will find a thoughtful piece written by Eugene Volokh, a libertarian-leaning law professor who is also an expert on the First Amendment. He has some interesting thoughts …

        • WHO’S THE BUSTER

          A good well-balanced article, but I imagined the fact that is from the Washington Post might dissuade some readers.

          • pennywit

            Eugene Volokh actually ran his blog for years before the WaPo offered to host him.

          • That’s hardly a newsflash here, as the VolokhConspiracy was not infrquently linked. The comPost, rather less so.

          • pennywit

            The Volokh Conspiracy moved to the WaPo about two or three years ago.

          • Which is why I don’t follow VolokhConspiracy as closely as I once did; I decline to give the traffic to the comPost.

          • Scalia

            In addition to what Rodney said, I’ve quoted Volokh several times both in lead posts and in the comments section–with nary a peep from the community.

            I’ve also quoted from the WaPo numerous times without comment from anybody.

          • One does take into consideration who is offering the link… But a bare link to the comPost (which I read everyday for four years, they earned my contempt the old fashioned way) is unlikely to be clicked on by me.

    • Scalia

      Overall, a good piece, excepting this:

      The players are using the national anthem as a means of conveying a political message. But the custom of playing the anthem, and of having people stand during the anthem, itself conveys a political message. The players may thus be “politicizing” the event in the sense of making an extra political statement, and one that’s especially noticeable because it’s unusual. But the event was political to begin with, even if the political force has in some measure faded through repetition.

      A very, very false equivalence. The only “political” message sent while the Anthem is played is that we love the United States. If those scumbag punks who are kneeling don’t love this country, perhaps they can find someplace that’ll enable them to be multi-millionaires by playing a game.

      I know, I know…these “scumbag punks” have a right to protest, and that’s part of what makes America great. But if that’s their mentality, then standing for the flag endorses the right to protest. To trash the nation is to trash the right to protest. That’s one of the points I made in my last post. Their effort is self-defeating from a logical standpoint. There are better ways to protest without fingering the nation you claim to love.

  • Paul Hooson

    Regardless of who the president is, you honor the country and the country’s flag as a matter of loyalty to the country. Men in my family represented all four branches of service from WWII on, risking their lives for this great country. All these millionaire athletes are being asked to do by comparison to GIs is to merely honor this nation. That’s all, That shouldn’t be that hard for them…

    • Walter_Cronanty

      Well said, Paul.

      • I may faint…

        • Walter_Cronanty

          I’m joining Scalia’s counselling session[s].

  • Walter_Cronanty

    I’ll bet this genius didn’t study economics while attending college:

    “And the fans that don’t want to come to the game? I mean, OK. Bye. I mean, if you feel that’s something, we’re disrespecting you, don’t come to the game. You don’t have to. No one’s telling you to come to the game. It’s your freedom of choice to do that.”

    • pennywit

      Hm. So if the Cleveland Browns protest the flag and anthem, very few people might come to watch them at the stadium? Not gonna make the joke. It’s too easy.

      • Walter_Cronanty

        Hello, Pennywit. I’ve been fairly upset with the NFL in general, and the Browns in particular, over the anthem protests – although not as upset as my wife who immediately swore off the NFL. I haven’t commented on the protests, as I wanted to think about it awhile before blasting away.

        I’ve watched the Browns since Lou Groza played offensive tackle and kicked field goals. It’s a hard habit to break, and a bitter pill to swallow. But, as my wife, who grew up playing on the “Lou Groza” playground at the end of her street in Berea, Ohio, reminded me, the “Toe” would never have done what the players are doing now.

        So now we have a crappy team chock-full of crappy players who are so stupid and narcissistic that they believe they can somehow positively impact political thought in this nation by disrespecting its national anthem and flag. Wow,… just wow.

        So, as far as I’m concerned, the Browns, and the NFL, can take a knee for the rest of the season.

  • Deep Blue California has fallen out of love with the NFL: