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Taking a Knee: Foul Play by the NFL?
From:
Timothy A. Dimoff -- High Risk Security Expert Timothy A. Dimoff -- High Risk Security Expert
Akron , OH
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

 

Taking a Knee: Foul Play by the NFL?

One of the most debated and controversial issues in recent times surrounds the NFL players who are choosing to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem. Some people see it an expression of free speech and others see it as disrespectful of our country, our flag and of the brave military who fought for our freedoms. I feel strongly that allowing these protests to take place at professional football games is actually a workplace issue. While the players have every right to express their feelings, they need to pick the correct time and place to do so. Their workplace is not the correct time or place.
 
There are pros and cons to both sides. I am not going to argue for or against either side, but instead I am going to utilize my many years as a successful business owner and consultant who has worked with companies, non-profits, educational facilities, houses of worship and more, to explain why this is a human resource/company culture/employee issue. I have spent many years helping companies determine policies, allowable/non-allowable employee actions, and assisting them in building a positive company culture. My experience has shown that a company's culture influences every aspect of their environment, the level of engagement of their employees, and ultimately their company's success!
 
Based on this, I believe the focus on the current NFL kneeling issue needs to be examined within the proper parameters of human resources and public relations. If the protest and the message was structured and delivered correctly much of the controversy and the public divide surrounding this issue may have been avoided. 
 
Here are some important factors that I believe need to be considered surrounding this issue:
     • Freedom of speech. The First Amendment is a very important right of every American. However, it is important to understand and establish how, when, and where we utilize this right. This applies to the workplace as well as anywhere else. And a football game is the workplace to NFL players.
     • Respect. Both sides of this debate deserve respect. When I run a meeting, give a training session or host a discussion I utilize a "Lets Agree It Is OK to Disagree" motto.  This opens a healthy discussion and allows respect for each side to be established without hate, violence, destruction, threats, etc. 
     • Message. Unfortunately, the message that those who kneeled at NFL games wanted to send was never clarified, causing confusion from the beginning. Many Americans interpreted the protest actions as a direct slap in the face to our military personnel, our safety forces, and to the American flag! As a result, the NFL has experienced an 11% decrease in viewership, damage to their reputation which ultimately will result in significant revenue decreases. 
     • Workplace rules. The football stadium is the physical workplace of each NFL player. When an employee comes to work and enters their workplace they do not have the authority to dictate the guidelines and rules of their work environment. In most workplaces this type of protest action would be grounds for termination. It is important to discern the difference between this and an employee strike for workplace conditions. These protests are not employee strikes. These are protests based on personal feelings for issues that have nothing to do with the workplace. Termination would be allowed and justified because they do not have the right to protest personal issues on paid company time. Every company has the legal right to expect specific rules to be followed under their roof and during their established work hours. That same employee can protest anything they want on their personal time; but not on work time, in the workplace. 
     • Responsibility. The NFL assumes responsibility for allowing this type of protest in the workplace.  They are the employer, and as such they need to establish clear guidelines on what is allowed and what is not allowed. They acted on the issue of touchdown celebrations by establishing what a player can and cannot do after scoring a touchdown.  They need to act on the protest issue, establish, and enforce a policy.
     • Learn from others. The NFL could take a page from the NBA's playbook that maintains and enforces rules stating all NBA players, coaches, trainers and staff will stand for the national anthem…no exceptions! Additionally, the league office as the employer will determine how to deal with any instance in which a player, coach, trainer or staff violates these rules. It is also understood that individual teams do not have the discretion or authority to waive the rule that players, coaches, trainers and staff stand for the anthem.
     • Good Examples. The NBA also provides a good example for other positive, workplace guidelines by encouraging teams to have coaches and players provide a joint pregame address at their first home games. This is an opportunity for them to send a message of unity about how the team is committed to bringing the community together this season, or it can be a message of team leadership. Lastly, they also utilize basketball as a tool for mentorship programs, community gatherings and more to build bridges between the teams and their community. 
 
To summarize, the intended message was never clearly delivered from the start and clear workplace guidelines were never established contributing to the debate and confusion. The NFL needs to end this debate by establishing clear guidelines. They can "Agree It's OK to Disagree" while still respecting the First Amendment. They just need to do it at the proper time and place.

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About Timothy Dimoff, CPP

Timothy Dimoff is founder and president of SACS Consulting Inc. a security and consulting firm that specializes in workplace security, HR, vulnerability assessments,  violence prevention and other workplace related issues. Corporate headquarters is located at Canal Place, Suite 2516, 520 S. Main St., Akron, OH 44311. Telephone: 330-255-1101. Website:  www.sacsconsulting.com. or  www.timothydimoff.com.

 

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