We discussed yesterday the decision of the NFL to shelve its policy on anthem protests. In the meantime, the Burgerville chain has faced the same question and reached a very different conclusion. Its employees were wearing protest buttons reading “Abolish ICE” and “No One Is Illegal.” Unlike the NFL which did have guidelines barring such protests, Burgerville had nothing in its rules. However, the chain then formally adopted a non-retroactive rule against such protests or advocacy during work hours for its employees. It is not clear if any Burgerville employee will now be considered for the next Nike “Just Do It” campaign.
I previously discussed how the NFL could clearly bar such protests during games. While only “guidelines,” the NFL game operations manual states that 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 NFL rulebook itself directly bars political speech by players, such as “wearing, displaying, or otherwise conveying personal messages either in writing or illustration” which “relate to political activities or causes, other non-football events, causes or campaigns, or charitable causes or campaigns.” The new rule actually loosens that guideline.
Yet, putting aside contractual arguments under its agreements with the players and its union, the teams have every right to restrict protests during work hours.
That is the obvious conclusion of Burgerville in the Pacific Northwest, which says that it “had a long-standing verbal policy prohibiting the wearing of personal buttons.” It is now express. The company does not want it or its employees subjecting customers to political advocacy in any form. They will just serve burgers instead.