President Trump’s recent remarks suggesting NFL team owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem could be a federal crime.

18 U.S. Code § 227 stipulates that any federal employee, member of Congress, or member of the executive branch is forbidden from using their position within the federal government to influence the employment decisions of a private business, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation. The penalty for doing so could result in fines and incarceration of up to 15 years, and anyone who is found guilty of violating that law could even be disqualified from holding office:

(a)Whoever, being a covered government person, with the intent to influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation, an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity—

(1) takes or withholds, or offers or threatens to take or withhold, an official act, or

(2) influences or offers or threatens to influence, the official act of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than 15 years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.

It’s worth noting that U.S. Code specifies that no federal employee is exempt from the law, including the President of the United States. The “covered government person” language in the beginning of the statute is defined as any U.S. Representative, Senator, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, along with any staffers of federal legislators. The President and Vice President, along with employees of the U.S. Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission and their respective staff are also subject to the law.

During a rally on Thursday night, in which President Trump was stumping for Senator Luther Strange (R-Alabama), Trump suggested that any NFL team owner that fired a player who knelt during the national anthem would become “the most popular person in this country.”

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!” Trump said during the speech.

Despite blowback from NFL teams, players, and even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Trump doubled down on his statements on his verified Twitter account.

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!” Trump tweeted.

Five hours following those tweets, Trump issued a response to Commissioner Goodell’s statements praising NFL players who stepped up for hurricane relief efforts, saying the NFL commissioner was “trying to justify the total disrespect of certain players,” adding “Tell them to stand!”

Because NFL teams are private businesses owned by individual citizens (with the exception of the Green Bay Packers), President Trump’s calls for team owners to fire players kneeling during the national anthem could be construed as a violation of the aforementioned law. As of this writing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was appointed to his position by President Trump, has yet to file any charges against the president for violating 18 U.S. Code § 227.


Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.



  1. These players are free to stand or kneel. I’m a white women upset with the racial conflict in this country. Black people are bring intentionally shot, or otherwise injured when it’s not necessary. These players in more sports than just football are becoming involved. Good for them.

    1. The bottom line is that no one is required to stand for the national anthem or the pledge of allegiance. It is Kapernick’s right and the right of any player to kneel during those activities. Anyone who cannot stand up for that right doesn’t care about your rights. Make no mistake about that. The US Constitution still means much.

    1. If you wait for Jeff Sessions to do it, it probably won’t happen. He should be charging Huckabee-Sanders with the same thing since she recently broke the same law about trying to get a news anchor fired.

  2. This is all so absurd.
    Kaepernick was NOT protesting. He just wasnt paying attention. The backlash was so huge that he said oh, i was protesting.
    Its NOT TRUE.
    If he were protesting, hed have said something before. He would have sat intently, with intention and forethought.
    Hed have made a spectacle of the demonstration.
    He played the race card as an afterthought
    u and who can blame him?
    People FLIPPED.
    They lost their shit over standing for the national anthem.
    ps, kneeling is a greater show of respect dontcha think?
    Besides, there isn’t actually an epidemic of cops killing African Americans. If you study the statistics, cops kill everyone equally, the media just doesnt report white deaths.
    There’s your story.
    Who is behind this?
    What is their agenda?

    1. You answered your own dumb as statement…”…The media just doesn’t report white deaths…” Why is that? but the same media doesn’t hesitate to portray minorities as murderous gang bangers, criminals & rapist…The list goes on and on. America is a white country that accommodates to a white narrative. When the white folks saw they couldn’t use minorities any more that’s when shit got really real. White people created racism and the go back to “Africa” narrative… Forgetting you brought everybody over here to do your damn work so you could white could prosper on our backs. The police doesn’t shoot or kill people equally, that within itself is a disgusting thing to say… Colin Kaepernick has ALWAYS said what he was protesting for via his social media an entire year before he began kneeling…I doubt highly that you researched any of this dumb shit you typed… Police have been murdering minorities for hundreds of years, planting evidence, believing the lies of white women who claimed to have been raped when the acts were consensual, shooting minorities in the back… The protest are for hundreds of years of minority social injustices…If you can’t see the obvious you are not only dumb but ignorant…You already displayed a lack of knowledge. Our soldiers fight & protect everyone right to exercise free speech and peaceful you can’t cherry pick the Constitution and what it applies to as you see fit… Bone up on what the actual facts are if you’re going to speak on someone make sure you actually follow them on social media. And to be clear Colin Kaepernick wasn’t the first he was just the first high profile at the time it started in high schools… Melania never even placed her hand during the national anthem no one said a word…Go sit it down.

      1. Thank you for saying everything I wanted to say , but to tirede to write. This guy was so far off with his comme ts that I didn’t know where to begin.

    2. Funny thing about what you say – it’s all mostly lies. Lots of white people point guns at police and are arrested without the cops firing a shot. Unarmed black people are shot by cops and killed. 12 year old black kid walking down the street with a toy gun is murdered by cop. Young black man looking at toy guns in Walmart murdered by cops.

      Did you have a nice long conversation with Kaepernick about his reason for kneeling? Hmmm? Did you? Or are you a telepath and just picked all this info straight from his mind?

      The media isn’t creating the racial tensions; racists like Trumpagogue and the Trump Pets are. They are the ones making it ok to beat, kill, rape, abuse others if they aren’t white, straight, male and rich.

    3. The biggest reason is because the powers that be want you to be concerned with NFL stuff and Tragic Trumps arsery, so you don’t focus too much on what’s really going on.

    4. Thats your response.? You don’t see Trumps behavior as the least bit disturbing or. Inappropriate. Why don’t you tell us about how great of a person and president Trump has been.
      Also, since you brought up ridiculous excuse for not convicting criminal cops # 7- cops kill white people too, let me tell you something. You are wrong and you know it. You won’t admit it but you know that what you said is intentionally decieving. You also know that there is a big difference in the way that such cases are handled and in the circumstances surrounding each case and the outcomes. Just say what you mean.

  3. I can’t stand Trump, and totally support the players cause. That said, this article misreads the legal language. Partisan affiliation means belonging to a political party. I’m assuming what this means is that Trump can’t fire someone solely for being a Democrat, Green, etc. “Solely” is key as well. He can fire them based on political affiliation as long as he has another reason.

  4. When. trump became President, he took an oath to uphold & defend the constitution of the United States. If I remember my American history, the constitution includes the bill of rights which. Incudes an amendmendent guaranteeing freedom of speech. So, trump doesn’t have to like the fact that athletes may or may not be standing for the National Anthem. But as President & commander in chief, he has to protect their right to stand, kneel. Or link arms.

  5. I really don’t care what he thinks, but to call them SOB is disgusting. Who the hell does he thing he is. We have rights and so does everyone else. Would you stand if the we sang the Black anthem. Lift ever voice and sing, no would you. I belive that many of you who are not black even know of this anthem and even know the works.

  6. Trump has more important things to do than interfering in an issue that is none of his business. There is no law requiring one to stand for the national anthem. The owners will deal with the players. Trump doesn’t cover his heart when the anthem is played. Fortunately, Melania reminds him. There is freedom of speech and expression in this country. This is a non-issue that has been blown out of proportion by Trump’s immature outburst. He truly believes he is a king. Talk about delusional. His foul language wasn’t appreciated either. Time for Trump to behave like a professional. Actually his outburst would get him thrown out of high school games. He should be banned from professional sporting events.

  7. It has been suggested that there is a MENTALLY DERANGED U S DOTARD occupier of The White House
    DOTARD defined means imbecile

  8. I am appalled by almost everything that Trump says or does, including this attack on player’s rights. However,
    the law referenced above specifically states “solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation”! This is the crucial component of 18 U.S. Code § 227. I don’t see how Trump could be proven to have made those remarks in connection with anyone’s political affiliation, by any stretch!

  9. I don’t see a “political affiliation” claim. However, there may be a 42 USC 1983 claim for violating the players’ 1st Amendment rights.

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