President Donald Trump’s recent tweets regarding the prevalence of NFL athletes kneeling during the national anthem was met with immediate disapproval from haters. Though tweets from Trump are always susceptible to backlash, the arguments against Trump, this particular time, hit some good points. The prominent arguments being stated are that kneeling during the National Anthem is a right protected under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, and that political speech is not what the athletes are paid to do and the athletes must respond to their fan feedback. This is clearly a tough topic to have a simple opinion on because both arguments are true.
It should first be recognized that all individuals hold their right to express an opinion. Although former NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s reasons for kneeling and sitting during the National Anthem are entirely asinine in my opinion, he is surely well within his right to do so. But at the same time, his actions are not why he gets paid; Kaepernick is paid to throw a ball, not a tantrum. Thus, since we find that both arguments are credible, can a middle-ground solution can be found?
This is where the debate gets difficult. If you feel as though athletes shouldn’t express political beliefs on the job, then do you agree with James Damore’s firing from Google for airing his opinions on diversity? Establishing a policy that censors individuals for an extended amount of time in their day would be explicitly unconstitutional. In addition, this belief would justify government control of employers. If enacted, government would have to enact laws requiring for employers to serve as “Big Brother” effectively silencing political speech. Such a policy would extend government control down to the workplace in which individuals work, infringing on individual liberty.
On the other hand, if you believe free speech rights reign supreme in every atmosphere, your beliefs would infringe on basic property rights. For example, somebody cannot just walk into your house, say something offensive, and sue you for violating his free speech rights after you kick him out. The same logic behind this example holds true for employers. Employers, who hold property rights over their respective companies, have every right to shape their property however they see fit, all the way down to the views of their employees. For example, left-wing outlets such as Salon have every right to deny job positions to conservatives, and a conservative individual cannot sue Salon for violating their free speech rights. Overall, companies have every right to discriminate in their selections for employees.
So back to our original question: If athletes can #TakeAKnee, can employees express their beliefs in the workplace without consequence as well?
My answer: it depends on the relationship between employees and their employer. In other words, employers and employees must set their boundaries of free speech prior to starting work. Obviously, as a writer for The Liberty Conservative, I am not only granted the right to express my opinion but it is also my duty to do so. Additionally, it is generally agreed upon between fast food workers and their respective establishments that their sole duty is to deliver food, and not political speech, to their customers. This kind of reasoning maintains that James Damore was fired for wrong reasons because Google claims to be an institution of intellectual thought and diversity adnd firing Damore undermined their stated goals. To truly determine if a certain firing or action done by an employer or an employee is justified, one should look at the boundaries agreed upon between the two parties. Ultimately, whether or not free speech rights are being violated on the job entirely depends on context.