The athlete probably does not have the right to protest anything while he is working or on company property. His or her actions are subject to employment conditions. The employer may or may not permit such protests. That is the private decision of the employer. The sponsor of the athlete, and/or the sponsor/advertiser of the company may or may not allow or condone the protest behavior of the athlete. That is the private decision of the sponsor/advertiser. The customer/attendee/viewer of the sponsor, advertisor, athlete may or may not make their own private decision whether to continue as a customer based on the athlete’s protest. That is the business risk being taken by the athlete, employer and sponsor/advertiser. On the other hand, the customers/viewers/attendees are within their rights to walk away, or burn shoes in protest on their own property and time. The U.S. Constitution (Bill of Rights) does not guarantee to citizens a right of freedom of speech in any and every situation. The Bill of Rights was designed to protect citizens from their government. The 1st amendment says “Congress shall make no law”… “abridging the freedom of speech.” That is entirely different from the mistaken assumption that the government must protect an athlete’s supposed right or anyone else’s supposed right to free speech or protest, whether at an athletic event, on a social network like Facebook, in a newspaper or on a soapbox.
Before it receives my money or viewing time, the NFL and its athletes, sponsors and advertisers must drain their swamp and clean up their act. It’s a chronic, endemic problem not a one time knee.