Watching the political spectacle in the NFL today is inspiring.
The beauty of it is how this was fell into place. The owners, for the most part, have every legal right to fire or bench players who protest during the national anthem. (They have the right to fire or bench players for almost anything.) Many of the owners are even avowed Trump supporters. Given this, you would think that the players who want to protest have little to no leverage to make their voice heard.
Yet somehow, today, players, coaches, owners, and even the commissioner have locked arms and united with those protesting.
How did that happen?
Trump called for a boycott of the NFL until those players protesting were fired or suspended. Doing so not merely as a prominent public figure, but as a government official and the president, meant that his demand could not be ignored.
This forced many of those had who stood on the sidelines before to take a position – either in favor of mass firings of their colleagues or against.
Even Trump supporter Tom Brady linked arms with his colleagues.
Free speech doesn’t mean that you cannot be fired for your political statements. It doesn’t force anyone to broadcast your statements. But it does force employers (especially of skilled workers that are harder to replace – whether these workers be in the NFL, technology, or translation industry) to make a stark choice when their employees demand to have their voice heard – a choice between supporting the employees who make their company successful or hurting the company’s bottom line.
As we saw today in the NFL, activist employees can indeed make a difference.