The major story making the rounds this past weekend has been in the National Football League, where players protested the national anthem. While this had been going on for some time, it really hit the front lines of the news wires when President Trump weighed in on the topic.
President Trump vehemently disagreed with the act of kneeling during the anthem, calling it disrespectful to both the anthem and flag, and even called on such players to be fired. Implicated in “kneelgate”, however, is the first amendment to the constitution.
The first amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Protesting the anthem is acceptable under the first amendment. Texas v Johnson, a Supreme Court decision, ruled that burning the American flag is protected speech under the first amendment. Kneeling for the national anthem, therefore, would also be protected speech/expression within this realm. If one can burn a flag as a form of protest, one can also protest the national anthem.
While NFL players are free under the first amendment to kneel, others are also free to criticize them for doing so. President Trump’s comments, therefore, were an acceptable first amendment critique of the players expressing their first amendment right to protest the anthem. Even further, those criticizing President Trump’s critiques of the players exercising their rights to protest the anthem are also protected free speech!
So, independent of the controversy they cause, the actions of the players and the criticism they received are all protected speech/expression within the confines of our First Amendment, and the ability to express and agree/disagree is a foundational feature of our constitution. You just read 300 words of stuff you probably already knew, but didn’t stop for a second to think, why can’t we just have some civil discussions?