The League


Do Politics Belong in NFL Locker Rooms?

Cleveland Browns Quarterback Brady Quinn supports John McCain. His teammate Willie McGinest likes Barack Obama. Now their coach Romeo Crennel has banned political banter in the locker room, but is that Un-American?

Posted by Emil Steiner on October 15, 2008 9:16 AM

Ricky: Jeffery, Who's an speach is not left at the doorway of your employer, however, as a democrat I am sure name calling is what you...

Jeffrey Campbell: Ricky- ACORN lawyer? That's the best you can come up with? What kind of mindless lemming are you, anyway? And let's take this apart a bit - ...

Ricky: Talking politics sows the seeds of hate and division? I believe that the democrats have been spread class warfare more than any other polit...

Make a Comment  |  All Comments (46)

thcarson :

I think it's like any job, You leave the politics at home.

Coach Bill :

Makes sense. I coach high school ball and this is what you have to do. Football is such a team game that there is no place for individuals. The Browns were 1-3 and divided much like America. Their coach instituted martial law in the locker room and next thing you know they blow away the Super Bowl champs. Coincidence? I think not.

Running a team takes group thinking. Individuality tears that apart. Players are welcome to have their opinion at home, in school or anywhere basically but in the locker room and on the field. Then you are a team player.

dg :

An employer can regulate the speech of its employees in the workplace. In fact, it has an obligation to provide a workplace free from intimidation. (If you were a punter who supported candidate X, and the defensive line supported candidate Y, it would be intimidating, no doubt.)

And those of you who want to shout out "First Amendment", the free speech clause only applies to the GOVERNMENT's regulation of speech, not a private employer's.

Gray area: what if the state funded the construction of football stadium (and locker rooms)?

Mattsoundworld :

My manager also asked my engineering group to not discuss politics.

I understand that politics - as they are today - are polarizing by nature. People on both sides are ridiculously passionate about their hatred of all things on the other side.

Do we really want to shove our biggest issues under a rug? To make politics a taboo subject? What good can come from this? Whats next?

Quite Frankly :

I will shout First Amendment, but not for the reason you're thinking. If you as my employer try to regulate my political speech, then you are defacto influencing who I vote for. It is not only unethical, but illegal for an employer to coerce workers to vote in any way. Therefore you must allow any non-disruptive political dialogue within the workplace.

Isaac / Washington DC :

I bet you if Quinn was the starting quarterback in the game vs. the GIANTS on Monday night, the Browns would've lost. The GIANTS would've broke a record on sacks. LoL

Seriously, this is a touchy subject that came to mind as soon as I saw Brady Quinn endorse McCain. We just witnessed an officer in Florida being punished for speaking at a McCain rally while in uniform. Even though Quinn wasn't in uniform, he is STILL A CURRENT NFL player. Now for Cleveland's coach to put a holt on political banter NOW might cause a slight issue among the players who are different sides of the political fence. Almost seem as if they are muting the opposition.

On the other hand, these players are Americans FIRST AND FOREMOST before, during, and after the game has past them. They are paid to play the game and not paid to mute their feelings towards the candidates. That's is my biggest issue with sports. The owners can go public with their affiliations with thier ties to a political candidate....but players can't?

Something is not right here.

Kevin, DC :

Football is a game this up coming election is not. To put a game in front of our future is idiotic. Romeo Crennel is doing himself, his team, and his country a disservice with such a ridiculous mandate. If anything he should be encouraging his players to take on these tough issues maturely. God Bless America.

juan :

Politics do not belong in the workplace. Same goes for boy or girl scout cookie sales, pushing charitable contributions on co-workers, any type of sales involving a co-worker's child's school, asking a co-worker to hit "happy hour" over and over, and last but not

Anonymous :

Football players are not normal citizens. They are treated differently and give up there rights for all the perks of being a jock until your 30.

Dog Pound :

What if these players just kept their mouth shut and play football. It is a distraction and manipulation. McCain wouldn't care what Brady Quinn thinks if Brady Quinn was not a famous athlete. He might not care anyway. Neither does Obama. Focus on the field and leave the politics to the politicians.

Squatty HJ :

McCain was smart to pick up that elusive "Backup QB on a team with a losing record" vote. I heard he just narrowly missed out on John Beck.

Jimmy :

If politics are leading to major squabbles in the locker room or otherwise harming the concept of "team", then Crennel is doing the right thing. The First Amendment dictates that the government may not inhibit free speech. The Cleveland Browns are free to act otherwise, so long as they do it in a reasonable manner.

didnik :

Brady Quinn should be free to endorse whoever he chooses. Good for him that he has an opinion. He should not be bothering his teammates about it during team activities.
I can put whatever bumper sticker I want on my car and I can work for whoever I want during my free time. I can't go into other people's cubes and start in about politics, religion, etc. during the workday.
Why would the NFL be any different from any other workplace?

monel :

honestly...who cares what they think. These people are athletes/entertainers, no different than the hollywood schmucks that make the crappy movies that we spend so much money on. If a power forward or running back has an opinion on a candidate, more power to them. But come game day they had better catch, shoot, tackle at a level to which they are being paid.

some guy :

Political discussions are generally discouraged and even banned in many workplaces, so I don't see how this varies much. The locker room is part of their job, similar to a lunchroom at company....except they get naked & change in the former :)

mARK :

It is a very wise decision by Romeo as there is nothing good about allowing political banter in the locker room. The only effect such banter may have, is a negative one on team chemistry.

I am all for allowing people to speak out about there political opinions. However, the Browns and Romeo's sole task is to win games. As such, team chemistry is vital and bad chemistry can serve as a deterrent to winning.

Think About It! :

So let me get this straight. You can talk about the most disgusting, mysogenous violent stuff (that you would get fired for in any other office) in the locker room, but if you want to have a civilized coversation about a democratic election you get in trouble. Yea that makes sense.

some guy :

We're not discussing "alleged" locker room conversations, which are disgusting & have no place in society. This time, we're dealing with the issue of politics & in this case, I believe their banishment in the workplace falls within reason.


Have you ever been in an a locker room? That kind of talk is commonplace and condoned. A coach would never try to regulate it, so why regulate the politcal talk.

tht123 :

This seems like they can not keep the discussion out of the work place it must go. These are kids for the most part. Granted Mcginest is like 50, so I assume he is more mature and refined in debate.

Amira :

The NFL is a business and each team represents a piece of that business. HR departments condemn political discussions in the work place, not because they discourage discourse, but because it can and often does lead to a hostile work environment. Let's say that the quarterback coach is a die-hard democrat and he gets involved in one of these heated debates, then Brady Quinn is riding the pines even though the guy ahead of him is doing a terrible job, he arguably can make the case that his lack of playing time is related to his political beliefs. Is this far-fetched? Yes. But it happens. See Wal-Mart 2008. It is best to demand that this discussion occurs outside of work. If they want to have a friendly debate about varying policy positions, let them do it over a beer, not in the locker room.

Oh yeah, and Brady Quinn has always been an overrated dolt. Even if I agree with his politics, he, and his Alma mater still suck.

Anonymous :

If political discussions in locker rooms lead to fights and to a lack of team spirit this is a behavioral problem the coaching staff must address -- politics are irrelevant, fighting could occur over religion, pay, towel snapping, etc.

Fred Sachs :

I think it would be wrong for the league to do it.
But the coach has every right to do what is necessary to keep the team from being split over political opinions.

Paul :

Don't be so patronizing. If political discussions cause fights to break out then you get rid of those players because they are a liability. They'll fight about anything.
I think for the most part these are adults, who should be able to handle talking about election without coming to blows. We're not in Baghdad here. Give them a little more credit.

deeppeace :

If they're 'on the clock,' then workplace rules prevail. If there is a company rule against bringing political, religious or other divisive topics to the workplace, then they should be treated like anyone who breaks a company rule.

It would be nice to think that by the time they reach adulthood NFL players could learn to respect people with differing opinions, but I guess that's a bit too optimistic.

I can't believe we're even discussing this when the country is falling down around our ears. Have a nice day.

Ron :

We already have enough people only voting for a candidate because their father or their friends say they should. The last thing we need is to have athletes influencing voters and giving them even more reasons to vote without knowing what candidates stand for or what they represent. Brady needs to be busy preparing to take over for Derek Anderson anyway. And being a big Browns fan, theyre 2-3 after being picked by many to get to the Super bowl. Romeo needs to get rid of any distractions he can control.

Brian Carr :

Romeo Crennel is completely out of line. There is first of all, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees the right to free speech. Second, there is nothing in the NFL players' agreement that gives a coach the right to monitor and restrain elements of the players' locker room conversation. What would come next, a ban on religious discussion or stem cell research?

wonkguy :

Brian Carr :
Romeo Crennel is completely out of line. There is first of all, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees the right to free speech. Second, there is nothing in the NFL players' agreement that gives a coach the right to monitor and restrain elements of the players' locker room conversation. What would come next, a ban on religious discussion or stem cell research?

Brian, the NFL is exempt from labor laws. They have an exemption and that is why they have an agreement with the NFLPA. And the coach, owner, and the league can pretty much do whatever they want. Plus, it is the right thing to do for the sake of the team. I am a transplanted Browns fan and I just want to see them win without unnecessary distractions.

Hochuli :

I agree with Brian Carr. If you can talk about religion than you should be able to talk about politics. Every locker room prays before the games. Its discriminatory not to allow other opinions.

marc :

yes it is un-amnerican to ban the talk in the locker room but it is important to keep team-mates on the same page and when you inject race (the underlying problem in this choice) it can tear a team into two parts (and not just offence and defence). i believe it has to be nipped in the budd to hold a team together. race is a very divisive issue.

olav :

The NFL locker room is a workplace. And a team needs to stick together to win. Politics are even more divisive at the moment than they usually are. Listen to Rush Limbaugh, and you'd think he was fanning the flames of a civil war. The charges against Obama are not only gross mischaracterizations in most cases, but incendiary to a high degree. I don't blame anyone for not allowing political arguments in the locker room.

Dennis Newman :

Nothing good happens when politics comes into the workplace The best case everyone agrees with you I remember a restaurant supported David Duke (a white supremacist) for Louisiana governor within days of hitting the newspaper business went from being a popular restaurant to no business and within a year it closed

Meridian :

Can the team's officials legally ban political discussion in the locker room?


Should they?

It depends on whether the price to be paid in player resentment outweighs the benefits, which in turn will depend on how divisive the political conversation gets.

Is there a direct parallel with religion?

Not entirely, because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act places some limitations on the degree to which management can limit the religious practices of its employees at the workplace. Private, non-disruptive religious conversations between team members are probably protected; large group meetings may be subject to limitations.

Organized team prayer, though widely engaged in, can easily become coercive and divisive. I would love to see the NFL get rid of it, but it won't.

Eddy :

I don't think race has anything to do with it. Just because the black player supports Obama and the white player supports McCain. Quinn can listen to Rush Limbaugh and still not be a racist.
The locker room is divided politically and thats a good thing. As Americans we have the right to disagree with other people about the issues since they aren't black or white but gray.

Butchy :

Players on a pro football team do not function like most of us. They live in an isolated and controlled environment. They are told what to eat, fined for being over weight and forced to endure humiliation, brutal training, and life-threatening injuries, all for the good of the team.

They also get well compensated for this. Telling them what is and is not ok to discuss in that environment is just an extension of that overall coaching control. They agree to it, are millionaires as a result of it, so shut up and play.

Work not the place for politics :

It has been an unwritten rule most places in which I've worked that politics and religion are not discussed unless it is a designated group whose purpose is to discuss those. Workers were discouraged but not required from displays of political affiliation at one's desk. In my line of work we have clients who may or may not share a staffer's political views. We risk offending clients (i.e. our paychecks) by these displays and discussions. Therefore we steer clear.

In professional sports it's even more clear cut. Corporations sponsor everything from clothing to stadiums. The leagues and teams cannot risk offending their sponsors because of their employees political leanings. Crennel's is probably the right one.

Badda :

These guys have been playing organized football long enough to know that a football team is NOT a 'democracy'--unless the COACH (see: DICTATOR) SAYS so!

Romeo's team, Romeo's locker room, Romeo's RULES!

If they don't like it, they can go play for ANOTHER team!

Will the rules be different, however???

Probably NOT!!! :)

Jeffrey Campbell :

Hank Williams Jr, who clearly represents the NFL, sang a disgusting partisan song at a McCain rally the other day, while wearing a Redskins jersey.
Football is supposed to be non-partisan; if the NFL, the Redskins, or any other team become partisan, they'll divide the community, and certainly lose fans.
It's wholly inappropriate for anyone to endorse any candidate while representing the NFL or any team. Romeo Crennel has done the fans and the nation a great favor.

P.S. - the First Amendment very legally doesn't apply in the workplace, to all you idiots who seem to think it does. Do your homework.

C. Amy S. :

Eddy: The question has nothing to do with black, white, or even grey. It's simply about opinions. The question is...should these political opinions matter IN THE locker room? NO. It shouldn't.

When people talk politics, it's never a light discussion. It's almost a never ending debate. Let's be real here. For Coach Crennel to eliminate that possibility, is SMART.

I agree with Butchy. Work is work. There are two focuses in the locker room and that's football and winning. They get paid millions to win. End of story.

Plumber Bubba :

Ya win one freaking game and the coach gets a big head...

Rich M. :

I agree with those posters who say this is like other workplaces. Your employer has great latitude to govern your behavior at work. However, if I worked somewhere that started regulating my conversations with co-workers, I'd quit.

Adults should be fully capable of discussing politics in a respectful manner, even if they disagree. I do it all the time. If this coach is having a problem with his athletes, the answer is to either teach them how to be adults, or fire them. Banning certain topics of conversation is treating them like children.


There should be no ban on coworkers discussing politics, religion, sports including NFL games at work. But a supervisor has the responsibility to make sure that any such discussion does not interfere with workplace peace, discipline and work performance.

ex DC :

McGinest is by far the better player so he wins. The rest of the team needs to vote for Obama on that basis.

Ricky :

Jeffery, Who's an speach is not left at the doorway of your employer, however, as a democrat I am sure name calling is what you people do when you have a tenuous argument. You cannot perpetuate your opinion as that of your employer and that's where it ends. You an ACORN lawyer?

Jeffrey Campbell :

ACORN lawyer? That's the best you can come up with? What kind of mindless lemming are you, anyway?
And let's take this apart a bit - since you talk about tenuous arguments. Everyone has the right to free speech, but certainly no right to sow division in the workplace, or to endorse either side in the name of their employer, therefor your employer has every right to tell you and every other idiot to keep it out of the workplace. Say whatever you want to whoever you want after work.
Whats your argument FOR sowing the seeds of hatred and division at work? Or do you believe it's your divine right or duty as a republican to hate and divide?

Ricky :

Talking politics sows the seeds of hate and division?

I believe that the democrats have been spread class warfare more than any other political party in the US in recent history!

When I discuss politics and for that matter many other topics, I do not resort to name calling and immediately assume that any opinion not my own is sowing he seeds of hatred and division. SAD!

Oh, Mickie Mouse wants you to walk Minnie Mouse to the polls....

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