Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones drew a line in the sand this weekend by publicly pronouncing that he would bench any player who kneels during the national anthem, prompting a union in Texas to file a charge with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Jones’ edict illegally restricts players’ rights under federal labor law.

Local 100, United Labor Unions, which represents workers in various industries in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, filed the unfair labor practice charge claiming the Cowboys and Jones are violating Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act by publicly threatening to fire or otherwise discipline players for protesting during the anthem prior to games.

"The employer, as evidenced by repeated public statements, is attempting to threaten, coerce and intimidate all Dallas Cowboys players on the roster in order to prevent them from exercising concerted activity protected under the act by saying he will fire any players involved in such concerted activity," the charge filing said.

Wade Rathke, Local 100's chief organizer, said in a separate statement that Jones is attempting to change working conditions, since numerous league officials and other owners "have established the players' right to protest and act concertedly at their workplace, which is the playing field." Although the players are represented by the National Football League Players Association, an NLRB unfair labor practice charge doesn't necessarily have to be brought by the union that actually represents the employees who are subject to the alleged labor law violation.

Steve Suflas, managing partner of Ballard Spahr LLP's offices in Denver and Boulder, Colorado, said the key issue will involve whether the players’ political activity can be considered as being for their "mutual aid and benefit."

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