The National Football League has little to do with justice or equality or whatever sentiment encourages protesters. But we’re now in the midst of an unseemly drive to the bottom, in terms of disrespect for the national anthem and the glories it stands for, and an equally disturbing decline in the manners of Americans, including the current occupant of the Oval Office.
Let’s get back to some home truths: The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is one of America’s gifts to the world, and it certainly protects those who speak out in ways that many of us disagree with.
Another: Every protest is not equal, and every venue for a protest should be chosen with respect for the views of our fellow Americans. To fail to do so, of course, makes the protests less relevant in changing the hearts and minds of others.
Burning the American flag is still in vogue in some dictatorial countries. In this country, done by Americans, it is speech protected by the Constitution — however much we don’t like it, and we don’t.
Kneeling during the anthem makes a statement about what? It makes a statement about richly paid athletes thinking too highly of themselves, that they would insult the country that has given them much, and the fans who paid a lot to come for a game, not a carnival of who-stands-and-who-doesn’t.
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To make the world championships of bad taste even worse, the president of the United States chips in, refusing the traditional White House visit of the basketball champions and suggesting that sacking popular players is in order.
The First Amendment doesn’t protect employment. But that’s a matter for players and owners, not the Tweeter-in-Chief. Highly respected team owners, including Navy veteran Tom Benson of the Saints, are right to stick up for their franchises, because those are really not the president’s business.
We urge everybody to dial this thing back. If players making millions want to make their views known, they can do so in a thousand ways better than kneeling or otherwise offending patriotic Americans whose emotions are stirred by the National Anthem.
The players involved have a right to their opinions and a constitutionally protected right to express them. But if they want other Americans to take them seriously, they ought to give some thought to how to persuade, not just annoy.