An Employment Stance on Taking a Knee
At the commencement of the 2016 NFL season, Colin Kaepernick, one of the quarterbacks for the San Francisco 49ers, and Megan Rapinoe, midfielder for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, among other professional athletes, began exercising their First Amendment freedom of speech by kneeling during the national anthem before their respective professional league games as a protest to promote awareness for social injustice and police brutality. The protests immediately sparked political
controversy, and the persisting nationwide social injustice debate was brought into the conversation of a multibillion dollar industry: professional sports. However, the burning question that has yet to be addressed in the endless hours
of media coverage and political opinions is what actions the San Francisco 49ers, U.S. Women’s Soccer, and other sports and entertainment organizations legally may take against athletes and entertainer-employees who are exercising their First Amendment freedom of speech rights. The public outcry has focused on the rights of the individuals, but are they entitled to behave at will without repercussions in their employment? This article will explore the legal landscape concerning the First Amendment’s freedom of speech within the employment arena involving athletes, entertainers, and organizations, as well as anticipate social and legal consequences for all parties involved.