Jeff D. Holdsworth, J.
Sports may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but recent sports headlines should grab the attention of employers and their lawyers. This article highlights how the recent sporting news should encourage employers, and those who represent employers, to update their social media policies.
In August 2016, Colin Kaepernick (former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers) made headlines by protesting what he believed were wrongdoings against African Americans by kneeling rather than standing during the national anthem played before football games. Kaepernick’s protests ignited a movement that has spread across the NFL and into other sports – even amateur sports. Debate about these protests has dominated media coverage and has even spilled over into the workplace. President Donald Trump has also been vocal about these anthem protests, calling for players who protest the national anthem to be suspended or fired.
On September 25, 2017, Jerry Jones (owner of the Dallas Cowboys) and the entire Dallas Cowboys football team took a knee together on the field prior to the national anthem, and then stood together as a team during the national anthem. On October 8, 2017, Jones said that if one of his players did not respect the flag, that player would not play. Then, on October 9, 2017, ESPN suspended one of its anchors and popular personalities, Jemele Hill, for controversial tweets calling for fans to boycott Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys. ESPN stated that the tweets constituted a violation of its social media guidelines.
These recent issues are concerning for employers and should encourage employers, and counsel, to ensure that employers’ social media policies are up-to-date and that employers have a clear understanding of employees’ rights to engage in lawful expressive activity both in and out of the workplace.
Employers can reap many benefits from employees’ use of social media; however, employers can also suffer consequences such as damage to reputation both in terms of what employees post...