Tags: nfl | protest | kneel | national anthem | roger goodell

NFL Kneelers Fail to Create Positive National Dialogue

NFL Kneelers Fail to Create Positive National Dialogue
Eli Harold #57, Arik Armstead #91 and K'Waun Williams #24 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the National Anthem before a game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on October 15, 2017, in Landover, Maryland. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

By Friday, 20 October 2017 02:16 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Controversy continues to swirl around whether NFL players should be permitted to kneel during the pre-game national anthem. President Trump has repeatedly voiced the opinion that the kneeling players are being “disrespectful” to the nation and the flag. Several prominent figures associated with the NFL, such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, have also expressed the view that players should stand.

The players’ kneeling has enraged many Americans who believe, like Trump, that it is intolerably disrespectful to the flag and all that it represents. Others argue that the players are exerting their First Amendment right to free speech, and that they are justified in voicing their dissatisfaction with the country in this manner.

The debate was sparked last year, when Colin Kaepernick, then a player for the San Francisco 49ers, took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality against people of color. Kaepernick has since become a free agent and has not been picked up by any other teams.

Trump recently told Hannity that Kaepernick should have been suspended on the spot the first time he kneeled. This notion seems to have some traction — it was reported last week that a college player was cut from his team for kneeling during the national anthem when the rest of the players had agreed to stand, and kneel during the coin toss instead.

Much of the discussion surrounding the kneeling debate is focused on the First Amendment right of free speech. What many are not considering, however, is that this right only applies to government laws restricting individual speech. The First Amendment would not apply to the NFL, if they passed a rule requiring players to stand — as Roger Goodell suggested might be in the works. The NFL is a business, and business owners can legally restrict the speech of their employees, since employees have the freedom to work somewhere else.

Trump’s comments may be from the chief executive, but they are not law. Trump, like anyone else, is free to express whatever opinion he wants on a personal level. Likewise, NFL players have freedom to protest any injustice that they feel strongly about. This issue isn’t about a player’s ability to protest though, this discussion is whether the national anthem at a football game is a proper forum to make a political statement and the overwhelming majority of Americans think that it isn’t.

All the media attention on the issue is centered on whether or not the players should be able to kneel — not the original reason for the kneeling, racial injustice. No meaningful discussion on racial injustice has been ignited, only anger at the player’s disrespect or fervent support for the player’s right to kneel. Racial injustice is a serious problem that is worthy of addressing on every level, but the drama the NFL players have caused has muted any relevant political discourse.

The larger issue at play in all of this discussion is whether our country is so hopelessly divided that we can’t even agree on whether to honor the flag and the anthem. John Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff, recently stated that the things in this country which were once sacred have all become political and it does a great disservice to us all. Personally, I love college and professional football because it is the most thrilling sport to watch. Football is all about individuals working as a team to reach a common goal. The men who play the game have to endure much hardship, loss and pain. Yet, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the team you root for overcome all odds and win. That is the history of our country, when we took on Great Britain in the revolutionary war no one thought we could win, yet we found a way. When we were bombed at Pearl Harbor our military was nowhere near as strong as the German war machine, yet we found a way to win and after the way ended we became the most powerful nation on earth. In fact, despite America’s flaws, the one thing that we can agree on is that when our country is confronted with overwhelming odds we find a way to win. The greatest danger to our country isn’t an outside force but internal strife. United our country is unbeatable but divided we are vulnerable. It is my hope that the players who used the anthem to protest realize that there is a better way to address their concerns, and all of us find a way to unite as one country under one flag and trusting in God’s hand of providence to guide us along the way.

Christopher Reid is an attorney out of Birmingham who owns his own general practice law firm, which handles Business, Family, and Probate Law and high-end litigation throughout the state of Alabama. Reid has held various policy positions, including working for the Alabama Policy Institute and the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C., where he also worked for House Republican Whip Roy Blunt. In law school, he clerked for the Alabama Attorney General Office, and, after graduation, he became Health and Judiciary Policy Analyst for Alabama’s governor. His charitable work includes serving on the board of Sav-A-Life. Chris is a frequent co-host on The Scott Beason Show in Birmingham, writes political and legal commentary for publications including The Hill, The Washington Examiner, and has been quoted in The New Yorker. He regularly provides on-air expertise and political commentary for TV news shows on Fox, NBC, and Newsmax with JD Hayworth. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Racial injustice is a serious problem that is worthy of addressing on every level, but the drama the NFL players have caused has muted any relevant political discourse.
nfl, protest, kneel, national anthem, roger goodell
Friday, 20 October 2017 02:16 PM
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