Critics: Louisiana Senate bill would allow students to be exposed to intrusive sex surveys _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD – Sen, Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, sponsored legislation that would survey students on their sexual activity to combat Louisiana’s high rate of sexually transmitted diseases. The bill was defeated late Tuesday.

A state senator from New Orleans is coming out in support of the Saints players who refused to stand during the National Anthem on Sunday, even as backlash mounts against the NFL protest movement.

State Sen. Wesley Bishop, a Democrat and veteran of the Louisiana Army National Guard, says that he believes players have a right to protest as they please, and he disagrees with recent calls to reexamine the incentives the state gives to the New Orleans Saints, after 10 players sat through the anthem Sunday.

"(T)hreats of future sanctions are an attempt to punish the Saints organization for allowing its players to exercise their constitutional right," Bishop said in a statement Thursday. "Now is not the time to grandstand and play politics. Many entities in the state of Louisiana receive state benefits while expressing political views. If we as lawmakers don’t take a stand to respect the constitution, why should anyone else? The citizens of Louisiana are expecting more from us.”

Bishop served in the Louisiana House from 2012 to 2016, when he moved to the Senate. He serves on the Senate Finance Committee, as well as the Select Committee on Homeland Security.

He said he doesn't consider the players' protests to be disrespectful to the military or the country.

"I may not always agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the end your right to say it. In America, you don't have to ask permission to protest; nor do you leave your constitutional protections at the stadium door," he said.

Others have come forcefully against the demonstrations. Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, a Republican, announced he would boycott the team, and at least two House Republicans have called for the state to reexamine the lucrative incentive deal that it has with the NFL team.

Louisiana agreed in 2009 during the Jindal administration to cover $85 million in upgrades to the Superdome and enter into an ongoing lease of office space from Saints owner Tom Benson as part of a larger incentive deal that runs through 2025.

Attorney General Jeff Landry, also a Republican and a veteran of the Louisiana National Guard, similarly called for a review of the state's ties to the Saints organization amid the protests.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, meanwhile, has said he believes the state is contractually obligated to hold up its end of the agreement with the NFL franchise.

"We will work with the Legislature and other officials to ensure complete transparency as to what those obligations are," he said during a WWL radio interview Wednesday morning.

Edwards acknowledged the root of the protest but said he believes that refusing to stand for the anthem is not the best way to do it.  

"I served in the military — I will always stand for the National Anthem and encourage others to do that," Edwards, a West Point graduate and Army veteran, said Wednesday. "I think we should all recognize that there is a constitutional right to engage in speech in ways that some people find offensive, but having a First Amendment right to do something doesn't make it the right thing to do."

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.