Players’ unions are not backing down against Trump’s attack on athletes
U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter torrent against athletes’ protesting racial injustices has ignited controversy and outrage, but it has also illustrated why unions are so important for protecting rights on the job.
Over the weekend, Trump demanded that NFL owners fire players for speech protected by the U.S. Constitution, called for an NFL boycott if players continued to protest, and dis-invited NBA champions Golden State Warriors to the White House because star Steph Curry expressed reservations about the visit.
The President’s outburst drew heavy criticism from players and their unions. The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), both affiliates of UNI’s World Players Association, took strong stances, and have long supported their members’ ability to express their opinions.
NFLPA President Eric Winston said, “I am extremely disappointed in the statements made by the President . . . The comments were a slap in the face to the civil rights heroes of the past and present, soldiers who have spilled blood in countless wars to uphold the values of this great nation and American people of all races, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations who seek civil progress as a means to make this country, and this world, a better place.
The NBPA issued an official statement reading, “The National Basketball Players Association defends its members’ exercise of their free speech rights against those who would seek to stifle them. The celebration of free expression - not condemnation - is what truly makes America great.”
Several members of the NBPA’s leadership team—including superstars LeBron James and Chris Paul—took to Twitter to give scathing replies to Trump. NFLPA member and Detroit Lion Eric Ebron tweeted, “Does anyone tell trump to stick to politics, like they tell us to stick to sports?”
This situation is extraordinary in many ways, but it highlights an everyday problem in workplaces throughout the world: without unions, workers do not have the support to ensure their basic rights are protected.
NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith’s statement in response to Trump sums up why all employees need the protections of a collective bargaining agreement: “No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights. No worker nor any athlete, professional or not, should be forced to become less than human when it comes to protecting their basic health and safety.”
World Players Association Executive Director Brendan Schwab said: “The right of an athlete to freedom of speech and opinion is a fundamental international human right but one which athletes have historically fought for at great personal and professional cost.
“The World Players Association stands shoulder to shoulder with the players and their unions in the United States. Their shared experience demonstrates the importance of our mission to internationally embed the fundamental human rights of all involved in the delivery of sport, including the players.”