Recently, the NFL passed a rule that fines players if they choose to kneel during the national anthem. This came after the extremely politically charged action caused a severe drop in ratings of NFL games, and severe rebuke from the President of the United States, who recently disinvited the Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles to meet at the White House due to some members of the team performing the gesture.
While perhaps forcing players to comply and not raise concerns on the field is not fair to the players themselves, it is without doubt a fully legal motion for the NFL to take. The NFL is not a government-run organization (though its use of penalties and suspensions may make it seem as one), rather it simply serves as a private organization that conglomerates all players and teams. As such, while they do not have the right to enforce fines on players, they do have the right to make the choice of paying fines or being ejected from the league. While they may not have legal authority to force a fine out of a player, they certainly have the legal authority to eject a player from the league. They are further legally backed since each player signs a contract detailing infractions in the league and fines required as a result.
Many in support of players kneeling during the anthem have argued that the ban on kneeling is flatly illegal, however this could not be further from the truth. Though whether or not is wrong for the NFL to ban kneeling, it is without question that it is legal.
Fun Fact: Money collected from fines is not utilized by the NFL itself. Rather, it goes to former player’s associations that treat retired NFL players who may have been damaged or hurt as a result of the sport.