by Dave Mindeman
The NFL capitulated to Trump. Yes, they prostrated themselves in front of the orange one and followed the will of the President.
And the First Amendment is the victim.
NFL players are not disrespecting the flag. They aren’t stomping on it. They aren’t burning it. Although those acts would be justified under the First Amendment as well.
But they are kneeling. With their hand over their heart. The flag is no worse off then it has ever been. But one person has decided that this is a sign of disrespect, and he is forcing others to accept his opinion.
There is no question that black Americans are being treated differently in many avenues of daily life. The NFL players were trying to draw particular attention to police treatment of the black community. They did it quietly. They did it non-violently. They did it respectfully….yes, respectfully.
The First Amendment has been protected for good reasons. Soldiers have fought and died for it’s authority in our speech. But it cannot be respected when we allow particular points of view to be negated by authoritarian interventions.
Several years ago, Nazi’s decided to hold a march and rally in Skokie, IL. A predominantly Jewish community. Skokie officials wanted it blocked, for good reasons. They feared violence and retaliation. It went to the courts and the courts sided with the Nazi marchers because the First Amendment has no favorites regarding what people can lawfully say and do.
They marched with city protection in place and heavy security. But it did not destroy the community. It provided some intense dialogue, but no one got hurt and the community soon got back to normal.
A triumph of reasonableness under the First Amendment.
But the NFL, under pressure from Trump, has mocked First Amendment rights. They are desecrating the flag themselves because they do not seem to believe in what it really stands for.
Liberty and freedom are not just for you and what you think. It is also for those that disagree with you and vocalize that disagreement. Yes, we are talking about liberty and freedom – the real liberty and freedom which sets us apart from every country on earth.
If the NFL insists on this dubious policy, then I hope the NFL Players challenge it – on the field and in the courts.
And they will be right and they will be patriots.