Editorial: Free Speech and the NFL


NFL players who kneel during the playing of the national anthem have brought the issue of free speech to the fore of public consciousness. In an effort to promote transparency with our readers, The Western Journal’s official stance on the issue is outlined below.

First and foremost, The Western Journal adamantly supports the constitutionally protected right to free speech. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

However, the right to free speech without interference from the government should not be misconstrued as a right to free speech without consequence, be it from an individual, the general public, a private institution or an employer. The Western Journal believes in promoting free and open dialogue, but recognizes that there are numerous reasons why an employer would restrict what an employee can say or do in the workplace.

As an employer and a private institution, the NFL has the right to prohibit players from protesting during the anthem. NFL officials are not required to give their employees a public platform to promote a message they believe is harmful to the NFL brand. Players have entered into a voluntary agreement with the NFL and are free to leave at any time. The NFL’s rule (which has since been suspended) that gave players the option to stand on the field without protest or to stay in the locker room during the playing of the anthem was a fair solution that allowed a player with objections to standing for the anthem to avoid violating his conscience while also allowing the NFL to promote the brand it desires and to provide a product its viewers want to consume. 

Finally, criticizing the content of someone’s speech is not equivalent to an attack on the right to free speech. Those who call the criticism of speech un-American are ignorant of what the First Amendment protects. If harshly criticizing the content of someone’s speech isn’t protected, free speech isn’t protected.

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Therefore, The Western Journal supports the right of NFL players to protest during the national anthem, but we also reserve the right to criticize their decision to do so.

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