How the NFL is taking the ‘free speech’ argument to court

The NFL, the NFLPA and the NFL Players Association are challenging the constitutionality of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the case of the New Orleans Saints v.


The NFLPA filed the lawsuit on behalf of Saints players, who claim the act violates their First Amendment rights.

Here’s what you need to know.

(Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)The Saints are suing the NFL in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, alleging that the law violates their free speech rights by prohibiting the Saints from playing in the Super Bowl unless they renounce the use of the Saints name, logo and anthem.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday and is expected to be heard by a judge sometime next week.

The Saints have long fought to play in the National Football League because of its close ties to their religious beliefs.

In addition to the Superbowl, the Saints also sponsor a charity fund that raises money for cancer research.

The Saints, however, argue that the religious freedom protections in the law would not apply to them because they do not follow a specific religious belief.

The NFL says the Saints are mistaken, saying the law is a necessary step to ensure the league does not become entangled in religious disputes.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement Wednesday that the NFL and the Saints “share a belief that the free exercise of religion should not be limited by the government or a court’s interpretation of the First Amendment.”

The Saints’ lawsuit alleges the law “violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and is also a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U (sic) Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom.”

The NFLPA, the union representing players, says the law goes against the NFL’s stated goals of promoting football and is a violation to the league’s commitment to protecting players’ First Amendment right to religious freedom.

“The NFL’s position is that the Saints’ position is entirely inaccurate, misleading and completely false,” NFLPA spokesman Brian Murphy said in an emailed statement.

“The NFL has been clear that the league will not participate in any litigation that undermines its commitment to free speech.”

The lawsuit also claims the law’s language is “a substantial overreach of government power” and will have “a chilling effect on free speech and the First Amendments of a large number of people in the United Sates.”

The plaintiffs also argue the law does not have the power to protect players from discrimination based on religion, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v.


The ruling said that the government has no authority to prohibit a person from expressing religious beliefs, and it is only the government’s “policies” and the Constitution that can compel the expression of such beliefs.

The lawsuit says the case has “serious implications for the NFL, as it threatens the NFL to face litigation on a broad array of issues, including its sponsorship of a charity that promotes the prevention of disease, and whether the NFL can continue to promote its games, including the Superdome, in New Orleans and beyond the New York metropolitan area.”

The law was first enacted in 2015 and was later amended to exempt stadiums with more than 15,000 seats.

The league has been criticized by religious conservatives for the restrictions it has imposed on the NFL.

Sponsorship Levels and Benefits

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