Leaders put an “end” to kneeling with unconstitutional requirement
The National Football League announced on May 23 that all players and league personnel must “stand and show respect for the flag” during the national anthem. Teams whose players fail to comply will be fined, and individuals who do not wish to stand may stay in the locker room and wait for the anthem to end.
The new policy comes after months of controversial and divisive debate sparked when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee to call attention to police brutality and other forms of injustice that black individuals face in America. Kaepernick and all those who eventually joined him were met with contempt from many fans, who stated that the players were disrespecting the flag, nation and military through their protests. The NFL’s top officials agreed: “It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic.”
Yet taking away someone’s ability to protest is, ironically, far more unpatriotic than the anthem protests themselves. The flag and “The Star-Spangled Banner” are evidently symbols of the country’s commitment to freedom, justice and equality. But, as the kneeling NFL players pointed out, America fails to fulfill such principles when unarmed black men are killed by the police and mass incarceration of people of color plagues our justice system. And when the rights supposedly secured by our Constitution are not truly upheld, individuals must use their voices and platforms to speak out against these injustices. This is not unpatriotic. Rather, it is the epitome of patriotism: kneeling in reverence to these ideals and pledging allegiance and commitment to a better America that actually lives up to its promises.
The players attempt to shake Americans from their complacency through their protests — to disrupt their entertainment and force them to reflect on the grim realities of racial disparities. The league’s leaders, a group of all-white men, initially promised to reach a compromise with the Players Association, which represents the players, about 70 percent of whom are black. Instead, NFL leaders banned kneeling outright, ultimately sending the message that issues affecting black communities are worth turning a blind eye to — that watching football is more important than the lives of the players themselves.
Unsurprisingly, President Donald Trump — who previously referred to the kneeling players as “sons of bitches” — supports the new policy, even stating that those who decide to take a knee shouldn’t be in the country. It’s concerning, to say the least, that the leader of our country supports a move that stifles the First Amendment in exchange for the fetishization of the flag and a watered-down, intellectually lazy version of patriotism, in which citizens must have absolute, unquestioning respect for their country’s policies. This blind devotion to America is not patriotic, and Trump’s encouragement of silencing dissent that takes a critical eye to the country and doesn’t adhere to his ideology is startling and dangerous. Trump doesn’t understand — or worse, doesn’t care — that protests should be uncomfortable, disruptive and convicting.
The Editorial Board finds the NFL’s decision a cowardly, complacent attempt to muzzle free speech, a spit in the face of constitutional rights and a step backward from achieving equality for all Americans.
Written by: The Editorial Board