President Donald Trump used his time at a “political rally” Friday to discuss NFL players. This, of course, happened during a time of national crisis with North Korea, disastrous health care debates, and American citizens suffering and dying in Puerto Rico. But, President Trump has more pressing issues that he’d rather spend time on: NFL players “disrespecting” the National Anthem and the U.S. flag.
Are players really disrespecting either of those things? Let’s recall an American’s right to freedom of speech. Amendment I of the Constitution of the United States reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” This is the document that our troops fight for and, sometimes, make the ultimate sacrifice for.
To say that taking a knee in protest of police brutality is unpatriotic or is meant to disrespect our flag or our troops is grossly ignorant. These men, who choose to observe their First Amendment rights, are just as American as ever. We don’t have the Constitution so that we can show off to the rest of the world. We have it to protect our rights and to grant us the right to raise our voices when something is wrong.
Nothing is more un-American than speaking out against these men or calling them horrible names for observing the fundamentals that make us American.
These men aren’t meaning to disrespect our troops or the American flag. The original protesters were displaying a concern about a controversial issue having to do with police brutality. If anything, it shows how much respect these players have. They are silently declining to participate in the National Anthem because of what it means to them and what it implies about our country and political system.
It is important to think about the consequences of President Trump’s actions. The football teams that played formed some kind of protest to the president’s words on Sunday. Some players kneeled, some linked arms and others didn’t come out of the locker room during the National Anthem. Would this mass protest have happened if the president hadn’t voiced his opinion? Most likely not.
It seems as if the president wanted this. It seems as though he wants to further the lines between his followers and everyone else. He and his administration preach about unity while seeming to create further divisions at every opportunity. It cannot be proven that he is actively doing this, but it feels that way. It is essential that we analyze every word our president says.
People are burning jerseys and boycotting the NFL after viewing Sunday’s mass protest. It’s heartbreaking that we’ve gotten to a point where people can’t peacefully protest without being called names or being viciously attacked on social media. It is up to us as students–as Americans–to ensure that these fundamentals of democracy remain intact.
As far as kneeling goes, I stand behind these players practicing their right to free speech, and peaceful assembly and protest. These players are still American, and they want their voices heard.