By The Associated PressA federal judge in North Carolina has ruled that the NFL’s owners and players can’t punish players for sitting during the national anthem.
The judge said the protests were protected by the First Amendment and said the owners could not impose fines or suspensions for kneeling during or after the anthem.
In a unanimous decision issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William H. Walls said players and owners are entitled to freedom of expression.
The owners and the players have been charged with violating the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which states a player cannot be held liable for injuries caused by acts of terrorism or war.
They were also charged with “disrespecting” the flag during the National Anthem.
The court said the protest is protected under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, which guarantee freedom of speech and assembly.
The NFL Players Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case was filed in July by the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged a decision by the league to ban players from kneeling during and after the national song.
The NFL argued that kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” is protected by freedom of religion, which also includes freedom of the press and freedom of assembly.
The ruling Friday by the judge in the North Carolina case, however, did not change that ruling.