Tyler Chancellor started his job as a coach at a kickboxing gym in Chattanooga, Tennessee, less than two weeks ago — the culmination of years of hard work.
“I played football my whole life, and I’ve been around a gym setting and training people — that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life,” he told The Intercept.
He worked at 9Round Fitness for a week before he was fired for sitting down during the national anthem at a boxing event a few weeks ago.
9Round didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Intercept, but confirmed to a local reporter that Chancellor was indeed fired for his political gesture.
Chancellor’s termination occurred amid widespread debate over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, a protest of police brutality started by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
At first, Chancellor said the job was a good fit. “The people were cool, they were fun to be around,” the 24-year-old said. But he soon learned that the owners, Courtney and Phil Grubb, were avid Republicans and that Phil Grubb was a former police officer.
“I never thought anything of them, until one day, we were talking about the NFL, and [Courtney] mentioned her husband didn’t like the NFL because of the protests and what’s going on,” he explained.
He explained to The Intercept that his opposition to police brutality motivated him to remain seated.
“I’m not about to stand up for a flag that means nothing to me,” he said. “That flag stands for justice for all? There’s not justice for all right now.”
His bosses didn’t see it that way. The Monday after Chancellor chose to sit during the anthem, he was promptly fired by Courtney Grubb.
“I was dressed for work, I went to work, I didn’t even get to start my shift,” he said. “She flat-out said. ‘We’re no longer doing business with you because of what you said Saturday night. That’s disrespectful here at 9Round, we don’t do that.'”
Chancellor doesn’t buy arguments that the national anthem protests are an affront to the military. He points out his father is a veteran who served for two decades.
“I’m 24 years old. My dad served 20 years out of my life in the military,” he said. “I know more about the military than my bosses did.”
“I have a son on the way,” Chancellor said, explaining why he needs the job. “That was my means of income for my family, and they took that away from me.”
While some states and cities have enacted laws that protect employees from being fired for expressing political views, there is no federal law that enshrines those labor rights. As the law firm of Parks, Chesin, and Walbert notes: “The First Amendment protects the government from infringing on your speech. It does not prohibit private employers from taking negative employment actions, including termination against you for your political speech.”
Other countries, however, have enshrined a national right to air political views in private fora. As the People’s Policy Project’s Matt Bruenig notes, Denmark’s equivalent of the Civil Rights Act, known as the Anti-Discrimination Act, protects political speech.