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Dallas Cowboys players kneel with their team in a show of solidarity before the national anthem during a 2017 NFL week 3 regular season game. Photo by James D. Smith via AP

Two Seyfarth Shaw lawyers are leading the defense of the Dallas Cowboys professional football team that faces a labor complaint over the owner’s demand that players not kneel in protest during the national anthem.

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Erin Mulvaney

Erin Mulvaney covers labor and employment issues from the Swamp to Silicon Valley. She's a Texas native based in Washington, D.C. Contact her at emulvaney@alm.com. On Twitter: @erinmulvaney

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  • Seyfarth Shaw

/uploads/sites/401/2017/10/Dallas-Cowboys-Kneeling-Article-201710241632.jpg" alt="" width="620" height="372" /> <i>Dallas Cowboys players kneel with their team in a show of solidarity before the national anthem during a 2017 NFL week 3 regular season game.��Photo by James D. Smith via AP</i>[/caption] <span style="font-weight: 400;">Two Seyfarth Shaw lawyers are leading the defense of the Dallas Cowboys professional football team that </span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://www.dallasnews.com/business/sports-business/2017/10/10/union-leader-tells-jerry-jones-stay-lane-amid-anthem-dispute" target="_blank">faces a labor complaint</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> over the owners demand that players not kneel in protest during the national anthem.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">Joshua Ditelberg in Chicago and William Dritsas in San Francisco represent the Cowboys, according to </span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://www.nlrb.gov/case/16-CA-207733" target="_blank">records posted online</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> this week by the National Labor Relations Board. Ditelberg is co-chairman of Seyfarths workplace restructuring and transactions group and is chief counsel for a company challenging the NLRBs definition of "joint employment" relationships among businesses.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">The NFL case follows Cowboys owner Jerry Jones comments that he would bench players who chose to kneel during the national anthem, part of a </span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://at.law.com/QG58ud?cmp=share_twitter" target="_blank">protest initiated by players</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> throughout the National Football Association. Many players have continued to kneel during the anthem, drawing ire from President Donald Trump on Twitter. </span> [falcon-embed src="embed_1"] Local 100 United Labor Unions, which represents workers in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana, filed a charge earlier this month against the Cowboys and the NFL, arguing that Jones coerced or attempted to intimidate team members with threat of termination and violated federal labor laws that protect employees��� rights. <span style="font-weight: 400;">Employment attorneys say there are </span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/12/business/economy/nfl-players-kneeling-national-anthem-labor-laws.html" target="_blank">many legal considerations at play</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the questions raised by the players��� protests. The NFL teams, which decide whether to terminate a contract, would have to consider the players��� protections under the National Labor Relations Act, strong collective bargaining agreements with the players��� union and the individual contracts. The teams also must consider federal and state anti-discrimination laws, and in some jurisdictions, employee protections for free speech.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">The charge filed this month targets labor laws that protect employees��� rights to concerted speech, which gives workers the right to collectively speak out against conditions at work. Union advocates contend Jones attempted to silence those rights through his threat of benching players.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">���The employer, evidenced by repeated public statements, is attempted to threaten, coerce, and intimidate all Dallas Cowboy players on the roster in order to prevent them from exercising concerted activity protections under the act by saying he will fire any layers involved in concerted activity,��� according to </span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/4116322/NLRB-Charge-Against-Jerry-Jones-Dallas-Cowboys-NFL.pdf" target="_blank">the document filed with the Fort Worth Regional Office of the NLRB</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">The union, led by organizer Wade Rathke, said the football players fall under the labor protection for workers that include taking actions about wages, hours and working conditions. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">���By Jones��� actions, he is attempting to change working conditions and creating a hostile work environment for players,��� the union said.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">An NFL spokesman said the organization did not have a comment. Ditelberg and Dritsas of Seyfarth Shaw did not immediately respond.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">Brad Livingston, a Seyfarth Shaw partner in Chicago and co-chair of the firms labor relations practice, </span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-26/fire-nfl-players-for-protesting-union-deals-make-that-unlikely" target="_blank">told Bloomberg News last month</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that owners would need to prove that the players protest was harming the business. </span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">���The employer would argue that it weakens the brand, it weakens the franchise in some way,��� Livingston said. Livingston, according to the Bloomberg report, questioned whether an arbitrator would punish any NFL player who protested during the anthem.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">Seyfarth, the </span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.law.com/americanlawyer/almID/1202780837450/" target="_blank">Chicago-founded Am Law 100 firm</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">, has ties to NFL teams. The firm </span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://amlawdaily.typepad.com/amlawdaily/2011/01/jetsfavresuit.html" target="_blank">represented the New York Jets</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in a sexual harassment case in New York state court in 2011. That case </span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/jets/2013/05/24/brett-favre-racy-texts-case-settled/2359211/" target="_blank">later settled</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400;">. The firm has also </span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/almID/1202733831785/" target="_blank">represented Trump Organization</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> business interests in contract disputes.</span> <span style="font-weight: 400;">Ditelberg is the lead attorney for the company Browning-Ferris Industries in a challenge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to how the NLRB defines "joint employment" relationships between companies. Ditelberg </span><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.law.com/nationallawjournal/almID/1202780977424/labor-regulators-urge-dc-circuit-to-uphold-new-jointemployer-standard/?back=law" target="_blank">argued in March</a></strong></span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> in the appeals court that the labor boards expanded standard was unworkable. The case has wide implications for companies across the country.</span> &nbsp; <strong>Read more:</strong> <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://at.law.com/QG58ud?cmp=share_twitter" target="_blank">Trump Wants NFL Players Fired. Its Not That Simple</a></strong></span> <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://at.law.com/qLD4mM?cmp=share_twitter" target="_blank">The Challenges of Regulating Employee Speech</a></strong></span> <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://at.law.com/vS31NB?cmp=share_twitter" target="_blank">Ethics Pledges Get Close-Up at NLRB Amid Leadership Changes</a></strong></span> <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://at.law.com/oGEzzg?cmp=share_twitter" target="_blank">Littler Mendelsons William Emanuel, Trump Pick for NLRB, Discloses Clients, Compensation</a></strong></span> <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://at.law.com/onfNQR?cmp=share_twitter" target="_blank">Labor Regulators Urge DC Circuit to Uphold New Joint-Employer Standard</a></strong></span> <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://at.law.com/waXfzo?cmp=share_twitter" target="_blank">Can an Employer Fire a White Supremacist?</a></strong></span> <

  • Seyfarth Shaw

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