The police union for Broward County sheriff's officer became the latest to demand an NFL team do something about players refusing to stand for the national anthem. Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit through the national anthem at a San Francisco 49ers pre-season game has extended to other players, other teams, and the regular season.
Kaepernick said his decision not to stand was a form of protest against police brutality and the special privileges police officers, and presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton, get when they are accused of committing crimes.
Predictably, police unions were not pleased. The Santa Clara police union warned the 49ers police may not show up for the over-time shifts they volunteered for at the stadium if the team didn't take "corrective action" against the second string quarterback. The police chief urged the union to "put the safety of our citizen first." The lease for the 49ers stadium, like many across the country, requires the team to hire a minimum level of police protection.
The police union in Cleveland made similar threats after a player posted a photo of a cop being attacked and did not make an apology the union considered sincere enough. "You're a grown-ass man, and you claim you were too emotional to know it was wrong?" the union president reportedly told TMZ. "Think we'll accept your apology? Kiss my ass."
The police union in Broward County argues that the Dolphins should require players to stand for the national anthem. "I respect their right to have freedom of speech," Jeffrey Bell, president of the local International Union of Police Associations, told the Miami Herald. "However, in certain organizations and certain jobs you give up that right of your freedom of speech temporary while you serve that job or while you play in an NFL game."
Bell's acknowledgement would better apply to police officers, who are government employees and public servants, than football players, who largely work for privately-held companies under the terms of a mutually agreed upon labor contract and their own individual contracts. Consider that police officers are never really off-duty. Their police powers, and some of their responsibilities, follow them 24/7. Their jobs involve enforcing the will of the duly-elected governments in their jurisdictions, the same ones that they negotiate with on what we are supposed to believe is equal footing to any other group of citizens that might band together to make demands of the government. But they are not—even the progressive hero Franklin D. Roosevelt understood the innate inequities of extending the privilege of collective bargaining to public union workers.
Public unions distort the accountability mechanisms in place in government, and sometimes succeed in eliminating them all together via their contracts. Police unions illustrate this when they appear to operate outside of the legal chain of command in spats like the one over football players standing for the national anthem, leaving the question of to whose authority exactly police officers are subject to an open one. But what public unions are doing here is not an exception to the way that they operate vis a vis public policy and government accountability and transparency, but the rule.