A labor union that represents workers in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana has filed a charge alleging that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has violated the National Labor Relations Act with his threats to discipline players if they protest during the national anthem.
Local 100 of the United Labor Unions filed the complaint Tuesday with the Fort Worth office of the National Labor Relations Board. It asks the NLRB to “investigate preemptively in order to prevent illegal firings of players.”
Wade Rathke, chief organizer of Local 100, accuses Jones of violating the act, which prohibits employers from intimidating or threatening workers for their “concerted activity.”
Rathke said the NFL has already established that there is no condition of work that requires players to stand during the anthem. Rathke said players have the right to protest and act concertedly at their workplace — the playing field. Jones is violating the act by attempting to prevent them from doing so, he said.
“Jones through his efforts to bully his playing workforce is attempting to unilaterally establish a previously nonexistent condition of work,” Rathke said in a written statement announcing the charge.
Rathke said the point is the same, whether the discipline is the benching of a player for a game or firing him by an outright release.
“Either way it’s a threat and you can’t threaten someone’s job for concerted activity,” he said in an interview with the Star-Telegram. “The point is he is threatening anybody and everybody. We are trying to send Mr. Jones a message that there is a law here. The law here is that you have the ability to act with your co-worker. You can’t just roll over someone’s rights when they are a worker. You can’t bully workers on the job. President (Donald) Trump might not get that. Jones might be confused. But these are workers with rights with the National Labor Relations Board.”
The board in Fort Worth will assign a field agent to investigate the charge. The first step will be to contact the NFL players association and the team.
Messages left with the Cowboys and the NFL were not immediately returned.
Meanwhile, NFL owners are expected to discuss the league’s policy regarding the national anthem during meetings next week in New York.
The NFL game operations manual says players “should” stand for the national anthem. Changing the “should” to “must” is an option the owners and league could pursue during their meetings Tuesday and Wednesday, said NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart.
“I think there will be a discussion about the entire issue, including the policy. … I’m not going to predict what might happen,” Lockhart said.
When told of the NFL’s plans of possibly of changing the language of the policy and making standing a requirement, Rathke said, “they haven’t done it yet and the threat is right now.”
Rathke also said the NFL Players Association might have an issue with the league changing policy in the middle of an agreement.
Lockhart declined to give a definitive answer when asked if owners could force players to stand for the national anthem. He also wouldn’t speculate whether the issue would have to be collectively bargained between the NFL and the players association.
“We’re going to do this together as an ownership group and a league with the players,” he said.
The NFL has not weighed in on Jones’ stance.
“It’s somewhat of a moot point because all of their players have stood,” Lockhart said.
This has been an issue for more than a year since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled to protest racial injustice and police brutality against people of color.
Cowboys defensive linemen David Irving and Damontre Moore raised their fists at the end of the national anthem in Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers.
Jones made it clear after the game that he and the organization would not tolerate any players “disrespecting the flag” during the anthem. He became the first owner to declare consequences for players who kneel during the anthem.
Coach Jason Garrett said Irving and Moore would not face discipline for their actions because they happened after the anthem had been played.
“I think everyone at this point is frustrated by this situation,” Lockhart said. “The commissioner and the owners do want the players to stand.”