College Athlete Codes of Conduct and Issues Related to Freedom of Speech and Expression

The Drake Group addresses constitutionally protected speech and expression rights of public college and university students who participate in intercollegiate athletics. The current national debates about the extent to which athletic departments should properly control athlete behavior, especially on social media and in connection with activism require athletic directors to respond to questions such as whether athletes should be required to stand during the national anthem, provide athletic departments with their social media passwords or cover their body tattoos.

The Drake Group believes there is a need to address constitutionally protected speech and expression rights of public college and university students who participate in intercollegiate athletics. This need is highlighted by current national debates about the extent to which athletic departments should properly control athlete behavior, especially on social media and in connection with activism. Questions of control include whether requirements such as athletes standing during the national anthem, providing athletic departments with their social media passwords, and covering their body tattoos violate First Amendment rights. Dealing with such issues requires institutions and athletic directors to understand the potential conflict between these rights and codes of conduct and the need to carefully consider and balance competing interests. This Drake position statement strives to provide educational leaders with a decision-making framework for developing athlete codes of conduct, team rules, and model practices that educate athletes and coaches about important free-speech protections.

CLICK HERE for full position paper

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