NFL takes a knee — but America is bigger than a game

Author: Barry Farah - September 27, 2017 - Updated: September 27, 2017

Barry Farah

Americans have generally supported the free-speech rights of our favorite athletes. But disrespecting the national anthem puts partisanship above the American flag — a symbol of freedom and liberty — that so many have died to protect.

Like so many others, I was raised to respect and honor Old Glory. I even would get a lump in my throat as a grade-schooler, placing my hand over my heart when proudly reciting the pledge of allegiance. I was raised to believe that America is defined by our ideals and enduring spirit, but our nation’s flag represents so much more… The concept and promise of the American dream.

While I agree that every American has the First Amendment right to freely express their opinions; I do not agree that you have a right to use your place of employment as the vehicle from which you promulgate your point of view. To do that is to abuse the private property rights of your employer.

When you choose to go work for a person or a business, you implicitly agree to follow that organization’s rules. You also agree to represent them in a way that enhances the overall value of the company or the overall value of the charity or the overall value of the sporting franchise.

Ultimately being an employee is a contract with an employer for the benefit of the employer’s customers.

Any attempt by an employee to promulgate a political philosophy — using the communication mechanisms paid for by an employer — is simply wrong and should not be permitted. An employee’s First Amendment rights cannot infringe upon an employer’s right to conduct their business and serve their customers. Such behavior is not only selfish but could be detrimental to the ultimate survival of the organization.

If they want to join a protest march for some cause or run for office or write an op-ed to persuade others to their point of view that is great; that is our way of changing public opinion for political purposes. But, to use your employer’s access to the public for your own political purposes crosses the line.

I personally believe our nation’s flag represents some of the best ideas of humankind. The flag does not just represent those brave soldiers from time past and current who have died to preserve and protect our freedom. The flag also represents the very definition of the American dream. And the American dream has a definition that includes the concept originally birthed in the Declaration of Independence that we have a right to our own happiness.

In the current situation of NFL players dropping to a knee during the national anthem, it is my view that a clear work rule would go a long way. If I were the commissioner of the NFL, I would require that all who wish to play must stand. They do not have to salute but they can’t shake their fist. They must stand out of respect for our flag and all it represents during the national anthem. If they don’t believe our flag is worthy of their respect, then I would not allow them to play. The game includes patriotism as an essential ingredient to its overall success — the fighter planes flying overhead, the singing of the national anthem, the half-time celebrations honoring war heroes, etc. It is completely reasonable to expect the employees to follow the work rules.

But it is up to the NFL — as a business, to decide how to best serve its customers.  And, the customer experience should factor in all the touchpoints. I would want to focus on the customer coming away with a fantastic experience, untainted by anything that distracts from the ideal customer experience.  It is a football game.

As Americans, we come from many backgrounds and pursue happiness as we define it. But when you don’t stand up for the flag in a public setting; where the national anthem is being played; where the whole moment is a celebration of the American dream; where in this instance the players are at the pinnacle of the attainment of that dream; you are saying you are against all those who are still pursuing that American dream but have not achieved it quite yet.

Regardless of what the NFL decides to do as the employer, I respectfully request that, out of honor for America’s contribution toward freedom, everyone representing the team stand out of deference and admiration for what the flag really means.

Barry Farah

Barry Farah

Barry Farah is the CEO of Precocity LLC, which provides CX software solutions to Fortune 500 clients. He also is a former candidate for governor of Colorado and the author of books on customer success and customer experience strategy.


  • George Strella

    September 27, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    Right on, Barry! Your parents would have been proud of your stand. The obligation to an employer is sound, but I doubt if impresses the athletes. I agree with Rush Limbaugh that the loss of dollars at the box office will do more than loyalty to America to get those players on their feet.
    Barry, I was so blessed and proud of you, learning from Cindy Perry that you have given a condo to her. Even furnished and rented until she needs to move!
    May God richly bless you!
    Love to your family,
    George Strella

  • Bobby

    September 28, 2017 at 7:03 am

    Thanks, good article, and I agree. Just one additional point: There is already NFL rules regarding the expected behavior of players during the National Anthem.
    NFL Game Operations Manual states: (pg.A62-63)
    “The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the National Anthem.
    “During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”

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