While I would not kneel during the playing of the national anthem, I do defend the rights of others to make a personal First Amendment statement if they to chose to do so. I can not see how a logical argument can be made to the contrary.
No one should be surprised that Donald Trump has used the issue in the past to insert himself into a matter that he needs in order to deter people from looking at truly important issues that need more inspection. No one should be taken aback that come next week–when the he NFL’s first exhibition game takes place–that his orange head and fleshy face will be on every television screen ranting about the matter.
It took two years for National Football League team owners to devise an answer to the supercharged questions raised by players kneeling in protest during the national anthem. But that awful solution–thankfully–fell apart. The league and the NFL Players Association (those damn unions!!–ha ha) are now attempting again to come up with clear rules about what players can and can’t do during the playing of the anthem—and what the consequences of breaking those rules would be.
Trump had threatened to remove “massive tax breaks” from the 32 NFL teams unless they were to “fire” players who protested during the U.S. national anthem. That was such an unconstitutional over-reach that after saying it once someone surely pulled him aside at the taco bar and informed him that when a government employee uses the threat of legal sanctions to chill free speech it then runs counter to oh—what shall we say——-THE FIRST AMENDMENT.
In 1943 a landmark Supreme Court case, West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette made it clear that public institutions like schools cannot force students to stand for the pledge and they cannot punish students if they refuse. It’s about freedom of speech. While it is clear that NFL franchises are mostly private companies, and not government institutions, it is also clear that many stadiums are funded by taxpayers. A player who has a desire and right to express his First Amendment rights could argue the game is not strictly a private enterprise.
For now the back-and-forth are in meetings with team owners and the player’s union. The union has stated they would challenge any aspect of the policy that didn’t adhere to the collective bargaining agreement. The union–since the protests began in 2016–has stated it would oppose any rule that prevented its players from peacefully drawing attention to social injustice. As it should be.
But we all know who will needlessly step into the controversy come Thursday when the games begin. But given Trump’s unhealthy look shouldn’t he just turn off the games and go for a brisk walk on the back nine with a celery stick. He might even find his last shred of decency which must be among the greens. Keep looking.