from the free-speech dept.
Al Jazeera reports
The National Football League (NFL) announced a new policy that will fine teams an undetermined amount if players on the field fail to stand during the national anthem.
[...] The new policy does not require players be present during the anthem, allowing those who wish to protest and not attend the ceremonial act to remain in the locker room.
Players said they were not consulted and threatened to challenge the policy in the courts. A statement by the NFL Players Association said its athletes had shown ample patriotism by way of their social activism and community support initiatives.
[...] New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson said he supported the measure out of obligation to the membership, but said players can take a knee or perform another type of protest without fear of repercussion from the team. He will pay their fines.
"If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organisation, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players," Johnson said.
New York Magazine notes
The monetary risk to Johnson isn't huge, since no Jets players took a knee last season. [...] Johnson is currently acting as owner of the team while his brother, Woody Johnson, serves as Trump's ambassador to Britain.
The Center for American Progress reports
Last month, the NFL announced a new policy for its players during the national anthem: Players are permitted to stay in the locker room during the anthem, but if they go out onto the field during it, they must stand. If any of the players takes a knee, the team will be fined.
Soon afterwards, a Wall Street Journal report confirmed what most have long suspected: That President Donald Trump's public outrage about NFL players protesting police brutality and systemic racism during the national anthem at football games heavily influenced NFL owners to change the rule, and discouraged them from signing players who would protest.
It's all terrible news for those in favor of free speech and peaceful protest, and for those against white nationalism and police brutality.
However, Mark Geragos, the lawyer representing Kaepernick in his collusion lawsuit against the NFL, [...] believes [...] that Trump's direct influence over NFL owners on this issue violates federal law. U.S. Code 227 [which] says that members of Congress or the executive branch cannot "wrongfully influence a private entity's employment decision ... solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation".
A few revelations from the last couple of weeks strongly support Geragos' case here, and it's important to remember that Geragos knows much more about the case than we do--he has taken the depositions of more than a dozen NFL owners, while the public only knows about the depositions that have leaked.
[...] Of course, influencing the private hiring decisions of a company isn't the only part of U.S. Code  that needs to be proved; it would also have to be shown that Trump did it for partisan political purposes.
That sounds trickier to prove, but in this case, that's not necessarily true. First of all, Trump's comments were made at a political rally supporting an Alabama Republican candidate for US Senate--an expressly partisan environment. And according to the WSJ, Trump told Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in private conversations that the issue was a "winning" one for him.