Kaepernick, Lynch, Bennett, an other NFL payers are protesting racism that they believe exists in America. Their chosen platform is the pre-game tradition of standing for The Star Spangled Banner, which is a song I love and cannot sing worth a hoot.
Imagine this happening where you work. Okay, they probably do not play the National Anthem at 7:59am every day at your office, but still. What would happen? (And how cool would it be if they did that!)
In jobs I've had, were I to publicly protest any American tradition, I'd have been reprimanded, if not fired on the spot. I cannot think of a single one of my bosses would paid me to protest anything. They paid me to work. Even as a rank amateur on the high school team, not standing for The Star Spangled Banner better have meant my legs were broken. ANY protest against the country would have led to me kicked off the team immediately.
That does not mean the players are wrong. Nor would it mean the owner of their teams would be wrong to talk to their employees about pre-game behavior, which may well have happened. It's my guess that the confusion between players standing or not standing is caused by company leaders not clarifying their expectations of their employees--just like it is at your workplace.
Think a leader's lack of clarity doesn't screw things up worse? Think again. Look at all the confusion that came from the Leader-in-Chief waiting one extra day to clarify his position on Charlottesville.
Leaders must be clear on what they expect their people to do. You must be clear with your employees, your students, your family, your people--stop making them guess!
An employer cannot restrict someone's right to free speech. We know that. An employer can, and the NFL does, however, impose a conduct clause as a condition of further employment. Because the players are not unified in their response, I conclude that the NFL owners are not clear on what represents doing the right or wrong thing, or on what slides.
It's not that I'm unsympathetic. The players in question are black and I am white. I get it from their perspective and I agree--centuries of racism hurt us all, and it is still hurting us. And, were I to find myself in a high profile situation where I could press the heat on a national issue like racism, I just might. I have strong convictions against racism (http://bit.ly/opiniononracism).
I would not, however, do so at the expense of my customer.
Like I have a right to my opinions, my customers have a right to get what I promise--value. That's it: added value.
An NFL player's customer is the fan who paid to see him play. Not the media, and certainly not himself.
The USA is on fire against racism. We read the news and it rouses our blood. The very large majority of us despise racist practices and institutions. Polls show we're disappointed in the President's response to recent events, and most of us have no clue why neo-nazism is considered free speech (didn't we fight a war against that ideology). We protest (some loudly, some softly), and, I hope, we vote to make things better.
We sure seem to be headed in the right direction on all forms of discrimination, and we have places that we like to use for discussing these issues. For most of us, it's not a football game we paid a truckload of money to watch. We go to football games to be entertained, not challenged.
I wonder if the NFL owners would clarify that theirs is an entertainment organization and not a political platform, something different would happen. Or, hell, tell the players to go for it, make pre-game a political platform. I don't care, just--if you're a leader--clarify what you expect.