When NFL owners decided to vote into league bylaws a new national anthem rule during their annual spring meeting on Wednesday, we knew that the NFLPA and executive director DeMaurice Smith would have an issue with this.
After all, the players and their union were not privy to discussions with league owners in deciding to change the rules.
While the NFLPA previously provided a generic comment earlier on Wednesday, Smith himself is now taking it one step further.
“History has taught us that both patriotism and protest are like water; if the force is strong enough it cannot be suppressed. Today, the CEO’s of the NFL created a rule that people who hate autocracies should reject,” Smith said in a statement on Twitter. “Management has chosen to quash the same freedom of speech that protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to prevent someone who does not wish to do so.”
Those are some pretty strong words right there from the union head. It’s rather apparent that the NFLPA will ultimately attempt to take this to court under the guise of the current collective bargaining agreement.
But it’s what Smith said next that shows us just how serious the union is.
“The sad irony of this rule is that anyone who wants to express their patriotism is subject to the whim of a person who calls himself an ‘Owner.’ I know that not all of the NFL CEO’s are for this and I know that true American patriots are not cheering today,” Smith continued.
It’s obvious that Smith is playing into the comments Houston Texans owner Bob McNair made last season in indicating that the “inmates are running the prison” when talking about said national anthem protests.
The new set of rules set forth by NFL owners on Wednesday allows teams to decide whether they’ll actually take to the field during the anthem. Should they do that, players will not be allowed to kneel. The repercussions would be a fine levied at the team.
Though, it must be noted that Smith isn’t necesarily speaking from a position of strength here.
As the NFLPA head, he is one of the major power players that yielded way too much authority over to owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell during the 2011 CBA agreement. He weakened the union in the process. And now, Smith is out here calling out the very same people he handed the power over to.