Employees Playing Football

The NFL ended its season with an exciting Super Bowl proving the league continues to popular, but some of its employment practices are at odds with the best practices endorsed by tribal employers. Comparing and contrasting the employment practices of the NFL and Tribes is an interesting, and may be, a useful exercise.

There is a lot of touching in the NFL which would not be endorsed in a tribal workplace. In the NFL it appears that smacks on the bum are not only tolerated but encouraged by good performance which exceeds the expressed expectations in the workplace. Smacks on the bum in a tribal workplace are expressly prohibited by policy, training and management no matter how good employees perform.

Screaming coaches try to motivate players on the field of play but screaming managers in the tribal workplace get to spend time with the Tribal Administrator explaining why their management tool box includes yelling and screaming at employees.

An NFL team comprised only of men fails to promote opportunities for women and if applied in the tribal workplace, violates the tribe’s pledge of equal employment opportunity.

NFL players have a duty to cooperate with the media by answering questions related to football and many other topics of interest.  The handbook typically prohibits employees from speaking on behalf of the tribe.

Tribal workplaces include employee appearance policies which limit the exposure of tattoos and belly buttons while at work.  The NFL appears to endorse close ups of assertive tattoos (no pink butterflies) and there is nothing better than a defensive end’s belly button on national television.

Any bleeding that occurs in the tribal workplace generates a first report of injury which is promptly filed with the worker’s compensation carrier, but in the NFL blood is smeared on your half pants for later exposure for the viewing audience.

NFL players use social media to berate the boss, complain about teammates and replay their best work.  Tribal employers limit employee access to social media and a tweet or Facebook post could generate a visit to human resources.

The NFL is working hard to export their product to Europe while tribal gaming enterprises are constrained by a confusing, but limiting, definition of Indian lands which confines and limits a tribe’s efforts to be in the export business.

The NFL is on television which includes dozens of cameras, reporters and commentators.  I am not sure that a tribal orientation session is ready for a wide angle shot from a blimp or a close-up with color commentary.  See it now:  “The HR Director just defined quid pro quo harassment and gave an example.”  It could be compelling television if it comes from a blimp.

When an important playoff game is won, NFL players dump cold orange liquid over the head of the head coach.  Try dumping cold coffee all over the tribal administrator next time a major project is completed.  If that experiment goes well, try it on the Tribal Chair next.  Please report your findings.

Both tribal employers and the NFL have policies which address the use of illegal drugs but most tribal employers do not limit the use of performance enhancing drugs like coffee, energy drinks and fully caffeinated soda.

Since 1974 when the NFL added an overtime period to resolve home games that end regulation with a tie score, there have been 526 regular season games decided in overtime.  When NFL teams engage in the extra work involved in an overtime period, there is no extra pay.  The quarterback is likely an executive exempt employee but kickers cannot possibly be exempt and therefore litigation might be necessary to protect kickers from the vagaries of NFL pay practices.  When eligible tribal employees work overtime, extra compensation is likely coming whether based on the federal standards or on tribal standards.

Talking about litigation, the NFL is engaged in rampant and widespread age discrimination.  One gray hair on a player’s temple and there is talk about being washed up.  Compare the NFL’s practices regarding older players and the tribes’ reverence for elders and seasoned employees.  Tribal employers do not cut 30 year old employees

The NFL hires referees to monitor compliance with the agreed upon rules of the game.  Each of the referees gets to blow a whistle every time there is action on the field.  The referees wear striped uniforms which make them look like escaped convicts from Alcatraz.  Tribal human resources professionals assist tribal employees with rule compliance; are not allowed to blow their whistles at work, but get to choose more fashionable uniforms than those assigned to prisoners.

There is a mantra in the NFL: “Best ability is availability.”  Because tackle football is played for keeps, injuries sideline employees and those employees are not available to work on Sunday.  Resilient and lucky players are more available and therefore more valuable to their teams.  For tribal employers, the same mantra applies: “Best ability is availability.”  In some organizations, managers spend too much time reminding employees about the importance of being available by getting to work on time, being in the right frame of mind and engaging in work, not the water cooler, when the workday starts.

After a game, some other employee washes and presses the uniforms worn by NFL players.  After a hard day writing strong policies, I have to wash and press my own clothes.  I want to play in the NFL.

Recommendation:  Recognize that our meetings, emails and forms are more exciting than an NFL game but do not tell anyone, because if it gets out, there will be a blimp hovering over the tribe’s administration building.

About the Author:

Richard McGee is a lawyer in Minneapolis, Minnesota who focuses his practice on gaming, gaming regulation, tribal employment and litigation in tribal, state and federal courts.  Richard has the privilege of working with tribes and tribal organizations on Human Resources matters including training.  Additionally, tribes ask Richard to address specific topics while incorporating the tribe’s related laws and policies into the sessions.  This is an invitation to engage Richard to produce and facilitate training for your tribe.