The Patriot Press

NFL Kneeling Ban: Oppressive and Unconstitutional

By Shivi Chauhan, Staff Writer

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It appears that backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement and the myth perpetuated by conservatives that kneeling is disrespectful wasn’t enough, as the NFL has taken measures to take away player’s rights to free speech. Team personnel now have the right to fine players who kneel on the field, a measure praised by many team owners.

The fact that the NFL deems it fit to financially cripple its players for taking a stand against the systemic and institutionalized racism in this country and shame them for exercising their first amendment rights is abhorrent. It should be noted, however, that the NFL is offering players an alternative option: to stay in the locker room during the national anthem. The NFL is sending its players a clear message- either be complicit in the gross violation of their rights or face the consequences. Usually freedom of speech violations are derived from government entities and not private sector employers, however, President Trump’s involvement in the NFL’s decision-making process gives players a substantial case against the league. President Trump and Vice-President Pence have abused their executive power in order to influence the NFL’s decision to punish Colin Kaepernick and other kneeling players. President Trump had stated that he would use the tax code in order to punish the NFL for Kaepernick’s supposed misconduct, and Vice President Pence walked out of a Colts game where protests were planned, placing pressure on the NFL to punish Kaepernick. The league has even stated that their actions were a result of President Trump’s threats, as Dallas Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones stated, “Trump certainly initiated some of the thinking, and was a part of the entire picture.”

The whole premise of the NFL’s and Trump’s argument is rooted in the fact that Kaepernick’s kneeling was supposedly disrespectful. However, kneeling isn’t disrespectful at all. In fact, it seems more respectful than simply standing for the national anthem. Kneeling is the sign of utmost respect- we kneel when we pray, we kneel when we propose, and the soldiers who give their lives to our country kneel in order to gain perspective on a situation. And gaining perspective and contemplating the blatant race issue in our country is exactly what we need to do. Many service members and their families have come out to defend Kaepernick and his form of peaceful protest. “’I can tell you, speaking for three generations of my family, it is PRECISELY for men like Kaepernick, and his right to peacefully protest injustice, that we were willing to serve,’ said  Michael Sands, a Green Beret who is the son of a World War II veteran and father of an Army officer who served in Afghanistan. ‘Want to respect the American flag? Then respect the ideals for which it stands. Bullying language and calling peaceful protesters ‘sons of b******’ who should be fired aren’t among them'”(taskandpurpose.com). Sand’s statement was made in response to a statement made at Trump’s Alabama rally in which he said, “’wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now, out — he’s fired!’”(taskandpurpose.com). “’He is exercising his constitutional right, and I’m glad that he’s doing it,” Benjamin Starks, a veteran of both the Navy and the Army Reserve stated.

If the NFL and Trump really want to respect the American flag, the ideals it stands for, and the men and women who give their lives to protect these ideals, they should start by letting players exercise their basic constitutional rights. Mr. President, stop trying to push your bigoted, xenophobic agenda and pressuring private organizations to do the same. As a nation, we won’t stand for it. Don’t worry. We won’t kneel either.

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Shivi Chauhan, Staff Writer

Shivi Chauhan is currently a Senior and has been writing for the Patriot Press since 2016.

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NFL Kneeling Ban: Oppressive and Unconstitutional