The Los Angeles Clippers have been in the news this week for protesting their boss’s racist comments by wearing their warm up outfits inside out.
Generally, free speech is protected in the workplace, but this protection is subject to some notable restraints. Speech that is related to the work done by the employee is not protected (e.g., professional disagreements), speech that is unreasonably disruptive to the workplace is not protected, and speech that is not on a topic of public concern is not protected.
In this case, the players would probably be protected even though their actions were non-verbal. The statement was, we would argue, in the public interest as a way of showing general disapproval of racism in society; not overly disruptive, as the game was played as usual; and not within the scope of the players’ work, which is playing basketball.