Fun Facts About the NFL’s Stance on Free Speech-Mostly Truth!
Summary of eRumor:
“Fun Facts About the NFL” claims that the NFL has taken an uneven approach to free speech. While no action has been taken against national anthem player protests, there are many examples of the league fining or threatening players for exercising free speech over the years.
Examples in the “Fun Facts About the NFL” commentary about players being fined or threatened for exercising free speech are either true or mostly true.
The NFL has had a notoriously strict dress code over the years. Rules dictate that players can be fined for wearing unapproved clothes before, during and after games — and the NFL has routinely come under fire for enforcing those policies.
National anthem demonstrations, however, don’t fit into the same category as uniforms or dress codes. When protests started in 2016, it was largely uncharted territory for the NFL. By 2017, however, it appeared that NFL owners were taking steps to prevent player demonstrations before, during and after games. It remains to be seen how that will be resolved.
Regardless, here’s a more specific look at claims made in “Fun Facts About the NFL”:
The NFL Had a Problem With Tim Tebow Praying, Wearing John 3:16 Eye Black-Truth! & Fiction!
We couldn’t find any indication that the NFL “had a problem” with Tim Tebow kneeling in prayer before, during and after football games. He was never penalized or reprimanded for it by the NFL, but Tebow’s Christian views did generate a lot of discussion.
It it is true that Tim Tebow wasn’t allowed to wear eye black inscribed with “John 3:16” like he did in college. However, the NFL doesn’t allow players to have any hand-written messages on their bodies or equipment during the game at all, and the NCAA has long since adopted the same policy. As an aside, Tebow famously threw for 316 yards in a 2012 playoff game after not being allowed to have “John 3:16” written on his eye black. This has been seen by many as divine intervention.
Brandon Marshall Was Fined in 2013 for Wearing Green Cleats-Truth!
Brandon Marshall was fined $10,500 by the NFL for wearing glean cleats in 2013. He later explained that he wore the cleats to raise awareness about mental illness and the importance of mental health:
Football is my platform not my purpose. This fine is nothing compared to the conversation started & awareness raised. pic.twitter.com/P9GNygFpH9
— BEAST (@BMarshall) October 16, 2013
Russell Griffin III Was Forced to Turn Christian Tee-Shirt Inside Out-Truth! & Fiction!
Russell Griffin III appeared for a 2014 post-game press conference wearing an inside out tee-shirt that read “Now Jesus, Know Peace/No Jesus No Peace,” which led some to assume that an NFL spokesperson had forced him turn the shirt inside out.
The Washington Post reports, however, that Griffin had been injured during the game and came to the press conference without first changing into the post-game outfit that he planned on wearing. Because Griffin had been fined $10,000 for wearing an unapproved shirt with a visible Adidas logo earlier in the year, he took it upon himself to turn the unapproved “Know Jesus” shirt inside out to avoid another fine.
And it’s important to note that the NFL has strict guidelines for post-game apparel. Players are barred “from wearing, displaying, or orally promoting equipment, apparel or other items that carry commercial names or logos of companies, unless such commercial identification has been approved in advance by the League office.” That means Griffin’s shirt wouldn’t have been prohibited because of its Christian message, but because it wasn’t approved in advance by the league office.
DeAngelo Williams Fined for Wearing Pink to Promote Breast Cancer Awareness-Truth!
The NFL fined DeAngelo Williams for wearing pink on his uniform in 2015. While players were allowed to wear pink to promote breast cancer awareness in October that year, Williams took it upon himself to continue wearing pink after that point in honor of his mother who had died from breast cancer. In the end, Williams dyed the tips of his dreadlocks pink to work around the NFL uniform rule without getting fined.
Dallas Cowboys Weren’t’ Allowed to Wear Decal for Slain Police Officers-Truth!
The NFL came under fire in 2016 when it denied the Dallas Cowboys’ request to wear an “Arm-in-Arm” decal on team helmets during the regular season to honor officers killed in a protest shooting. The NFL has allowed teams to wear decals for people who were affiliated with the league, but never for outside causes. It refused to deviate from the policy, and has never made exceptions.
NFL Threatened Players in 2016 for Wearing 9/11 Commemorative Cleats-Truth!
The NFL announced in 2010 that it would not fine players for wearing 9/11 commemorative cleats on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. In 2016, however, the NFL was not willing to make the same exception for the 15th anniversary of the attacks. Players were notified in advance that they’d be fined for wearing unapproved commemorative cleats.