Baltimore Orioles: What’s the responsibility to the customer?

The Baltimore Orioles, MLB, and the rest of the sports world are avidly watching the NFL and what’s going on with the anthem protests. This isn’t so much about whether one should stand for the anthem anymore, however. It’s now entered an entirely new realm.

The NFL said this week that their “stance” is that they encourage and want all players to stand for the National Anthem, however it’s not required. Basically, you won’t be disciplined if you don’t. On one hand you have some players arguing that it’s a civil rights issue and so forth. And on the other hand you have fans (paying customers) who are disgusted by the entire thing.

The fact is that NFL ratings are down once again this year – supposedly by approximately 7.5%. When networks and sponsors are paying as much as they are for coverage and exposure, that’s a lot. We can’t be sure that the anthem protests are the reason for all of that, but it’s safe to say that some of it is due to that. However I’m not sure that the number of eyeballs watching is necessarily that different. Sports bars now shoe every game, and people can stream games online. That might attest for some of it as well.

However, where’s the line of justice in all of this? Again, MLB should be watching this intently. One player opted to take a knee before the season ended in September, but this is an issue that might become more prevalent next year for all they know. And in effect, both sides kind of remain at an impasse.

Many people try to liken this to slavery, in that they feel that owners (most of whom are older white gentlemen) are trying to claim that because they pay these players lots of money they can tell them how to behave and so forth. The slavery comparison is out of line – let me just say that up front. However, the fact is that any employer can basically dictate what their employees’ behavior is expected to be while they’re on the clock. And these players are very much employees on the clock during the National Anthem.

This of course comes with the caveat of within reason. Your employer can’t ask you to break the law or anything along those lines. However if the NFL or an individual owner sees that their customers are bothered by players (employees) taking a knee during the anthem, the fact is that they do have a right to in that instance tell players they’re expected to stand. As would MLB.

And the fact is that employers do things like this all the time. Things which could in theory border on infringing on people’s personal liberty. There are companies out there who forbid their employees to smoke. Not you can’t smoke during work hours, or you can’t smoke on company property. But literally you aren’t allowed to be employed there and be a smoker – even on your own personal time.

I see that as worse than dictating what behavior is expected on the job. That’s literally dictating someone’s life outside of work. And yes, people have been fired for these types of transgressions. But I digress. Should the NFL and perhaps other leagues infringe on the personal liberties of it’s employees? Should they appease their customers at all costs? Again, the sides remain at an impasse.

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