NFL players stand up for their freedom of speech rights by kneeling during the national anthem against police brutality and injustices for African-Americans.
The latest NFL protest involving professional athletes’ right to kneel during the national anthem has fired up multiple concerns about the players’ First Amendment rights to free speech.
The NFL protests began in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, decided not to stand while the national anthem was played before the start of games. In a protest he said was against oppression of people of color in this country.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said.
President Trump recently condemned NFL players who were supporting the protest by dropping to one knee during the National Anthem. This created a backlash in which players on many teams, and even some team owners who supported Trump, took a stance against his position.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’ ” Trump continued. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in the country.”
Addressing the widespread protest by NFL players, the North Carolina MC J Cole believes the overall power is in the paying public. “God bless every player that finds courage to kneel today. But the real power comes from you deciding to not watch,” he added. “Your eyes translate to advertising money for the League and it’s owners…You and me have the power to deny them our attention ($$ to them) until they make a wrong situation right.”
For generations, American athletes have used their public voice to force our collective attention towards the crises and issues that challenge our national conscience.
“Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up!” LeBron James said. Many professional athletes tweeted in the same spirit as James, and even the N.F.L. commissioner, Roger Goodell, issued a statement calling Trump’s comments “divisive” and showing an “unfortunate lack of respect” for the league and its players.
Trump seems on a mission to destroy constitutional protections, as journalist Bill Moyers put it, “almost a campaign to kill free speech.” Denying people constitutional protections is, of course, precisely the opposite of the government’s job.