Football, Politics and First Amendment Rights

Football, Politics and First Amendment Rights


In 2016, Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem. He did this to draw attention to what he perceived as an injustice in America. He believed that young black men were being unjustly killed by white police officers. A handful of players joined Kaepernick in his protest. This became a hot political issue. Throughout the 2016 season and in the beginning of the 2017 season a few players also decided to kneel.

On Friday, September 23, President Trump made the following statement to a crowd of supporters, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out,’” Trump said. “‘He’s fired. He’s fired!’” The backlash was immediate this weekend. The NFL commissioner and a majority of team owners released statements condemning the president’s remarks. Approximately 400 football players (13%) decided to kneel during the national anthem over the weekend.

To help you understand this issue a little bit better, I will provide a pro and a con argument and then provide my perspective.

Pro: The playing of our national anthem before almost every sporting event (little league to the pros) is a short 3-minute exercise to commemorate what America represents.  It’s about democracy, freedom and the rights granted by the constitution. These ideals and principles are special and they shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s also a time to honor those who have fought and sometimes died to defend the freedoms that we hold dearly. Regardless of your politics or who sits in the White House, we are all Americans. Everyone should stand and put their right hand over their hearts to celebrate the experiment that is America.

Con: Football players are American citizens. As such, they have First Amendment Rights. They have the freedom of speech and the freedom to protest whatever cause they choose. You don’t have to agree with it or like it. Millions of soldiers fought to ensure every American has these freedoms.

Joe’s Perspective #1 – First Amendment Rights: I am a First Amendment guy. I believe that the freedom of speech and the freedom to protest is what makes us fundamentally American.

First Amendment Rights: 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.

We can express our opinions on any issue that we want at any time we want and the government cannot censor us. Silently taking a knee during the national anthem is covered. It doesn’t matter if you agree with the issue or not. That is why I take the controversial stance that the KKK has the right to protest and spew their hatred. It is also why I believe that a football player has the right to give voice to their issues.  No greater issue can supersede these points.

Joe’s Perspective #2 – Trump Was Inappropriate: President Trump should not use swear words in a public setting. It shows poor character. I also strongly believe that the president should not call American citizens names and suggest that they be fired simply for exercising their first amendment rights. In my opinion, he was inappropriate and divisive. I know this president does not apologize, but if I were his chief of staff, I would definitely recommend it here.

Joe’s Perspective #3 – Patriotism: Most people want to see professional athletes stand for the national anthem. I am one of them. My kids know what to do at sporting events and if they remain seated or talk during this time, they receive a yank on the arm from Dad. I don’t think it’s too much to ask the same from every American. If we can’t come together for that small amount of time to honor America, I think we are in trouble. I have many disagreements with the policies of our government, but I don’t choose to voice them during the national anthem.

Joe’s Perspective #4 – Backfire: As an American citizen, President Trump also has the right to free speech. He can express his opinions just like everyone else. However, his rhetoric actually galvanized this movement. He actually turned Kaepernick into a sympathetic figure. He turned this small issue involving a few players into a major national issue. Owners, coaches and players locked arms in defiance of the president, not necessarily in support of any one issue.

Joe’s Perspective #5 – Alejandro Villanueva: The other villain appears to be Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He wanted his team to have a united voice against the president’s words. The players decided to remain in the locker room during the national anthem. This, however, was a decision that Alejandro Villanueva, West Point graduate and Army Ranger, could not abide by. He walked on the field and stood with his hand over his heart.  The jersey of this offensive lineman is now the top-selling jersey in the NFL.

Joe’s Perspective #6 – Capitalism Will Work It Out: In the end, this is America. If you want to boycott the NFL because you disagree with the players, have at it. If companies want to pull advertisements, so be it. Likewise, if you want to buy your first ticket to an NFL game to show your support, now is the time.  It’s the beauty of capitalism – the market will decide on this issue.

Your Turn: Learn all the facts, listen to all the voices and take a deep breath. Using respectful language, write down your thoughts and feelings about this issue.

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  1. I get that African American players are sharing their thoughts by protesting but I don’t think this is the way to do it. In my opinion the American flag and National Anthem had nothing to do with standing up for rights as a African American. This is not about American citizens or anything like that but equality of race. The flag is not the way to do so. It is disrespectful to all the military people who fight for freedom and some come home in a coffin with a flag frapper over them because they fought for others lives. I think everyone should stand for the national anthem no matter what and if people want to protest do it in a different way.

  2. I feel that football players do have the freedom to do whatever they want but to a certain point. The National Anthem is a song played to represent our country and for that we should stand and honor it not kneel because that is disrespectful and just not what we do during the anthem.

  3. I feel that it is wrong to sit or kneel during The national anthem which in this case I agree with Trump. That if you can’t stand for the national anthem and take a moment of silence for those who have served our country and who have died serving our country

  4. In my personal opinion, I believe that there are many other ways to express how you feel about police brutality other than kneeling during the national anthem. The national anthem has nothing to do with police brutality, it was written during the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814. The author of the national anthem wrote this to show how no matter what the men and women fighting in this battle would not raise the white flag of surrender. So with that in mind I think that kneeling is inappropriate during that time of the game. On the other hand, the players have gotten their point across by kneeling. If the players would have knelt at any other time, they might not have gotten their message out as well as kneeling during the national anthem has. But in my personal opinion I think that finding a better time to kneel would be the best way to make everything peaceful once again.

  5. In my opinion, I think what the NFL players are doing is nothing wrong. Their voice matters, and if they need to protest to do it, then they should. Donald Trump’s comments were disappointing, and I think they should to do something about it. I feel like instead of the NFL players improving, Trump needs to improve himself first, He he doesn’t, he has no say in what the NFL players do, and what they believe in.

  6. I personally believe that they’re doing the right thing, they believe that America has it’s issues and things aren’t equal, but there’s more than one reason to stand, to respect our fallen soldiers who died protecting us, and if they at least respect that, then they have the freedom to say what they want, even the constitution says so.

  7. I feel that we have the freedom to protest legally and that the footballs players way of protesting is in no way disrespecting the military because that’s not the main reason they are kneeling. I personally wouldn’t kneel but I can see where they are coming from.

  8. In the 1920’s, a document was written that listed all of the ways to respect our flag and the majority of Americans have unknowingly broken almost all of them. These rules include, but are not limited to: the flag cannot be worn or printed on materials (clothes, blankets, napkins, necklaces, etc.); the flag must be able to flap freely (notice that before some athletic games the flag will be held horizontally above the field, restricting it from being able to move naturally); and the flag cannot even be printed on athletic gear (jerseys, swim caps, shorts, etc.). This document also says that one must stand before the national anthem and flag but it mentions absolutely nothing about kneeling. Taking this into consideration, I’d call us hypocrites, although, like I said, hardly anyone has read these rules so they are clueless to their actions. But overall, people have their opinions and they should feel free to protest in whatever way they wish. When it comes down to it, it’s how YOU feel towards something and how YOU want to showcase YOUR beliefs. I, personally, will always stand for the flag and national anthem but if some people don’t want to, that’s on them. That’s their choice. That’s their 1st Amendment Right.

  9. The NFL Players have the right to kneel. If thats their choice nobody can stop them they are respecting what they believe.

  10. I believe that NFL players have a right to protest the way that they choose, however, if they are serious about making a change in how people of color are treated in America then it starts with educating and building our communities. You can’t just take a knee in protest then do nothing in terms creating a better world for your kids to live in. If your truly striving for change, then it takes initiative off the field as well as on it.

  11. I feel as if protesting during the national anthem is not that way to do. It’s not that they can’t, it’s just plain disrespectful. Little kids look up to these players, and it’s not being good role models.

  12. The players may have that right but it could be done a different way. Soldiers fought for that freedom and the NFL players are disrespecting that freedom.

  13. The idea behind what they are trying to to protest and show to the country is good. But the way they are going about it may not be the best. It would be more beneficially to actually go out and do something rather than just kneeling.

  14. I think that what Colin did was good but bad to…. its good because he is making a point that is true about racist white cops who harm innocent black boys for no reason…but its bad how he does it many people in the force have fought for all rights in America and the national anthem is a serious thing and he shouldn’t protest at that time…but then again if people fought for all equal rights and its not happening right now then I don’t think he will stand up until so………

  15. He is right about black people getting shoot for doing nothing white cops think all colored people are bad and or they don’t think they have the same rights , but we are all human and need to be treated the same, and you can’t pick and choose who is good and bad.

  16. I think these players can do whatever they want to because they have a right to. However protesting their beliefs during the national anthem is the wrong way to go about it.

  17. I don’t like that the players are taking a knee and I think they could find a better way to protest, but at the same time they are American citizens and have the right to protest however they want.

  18. I think that the way that the NFL players were protesting was wrong. But I belive that they were doing it for the right reasons. Also I think that they should stop protesting that way and that if they countinue that they shouldnt play or get paid as much.

  19. Every player can kneel or stand if they want. Also trump shouldnt be able to call americans names because of what they did or who.

  20. I believe if the football players want to kneel they can they have a right to express their opinion. But I think it is disrespectful to all of the soldiers that fight and risk their lives to keep america free. I think the football players instead of kneeling during the anthem they should go out and protest and not cause all this drama.

  21. I think that people should stand for the national anthem to show their respect towards the people fighting for them. Also, I think that the players have the right to peacefully protest due to the first amendment. I feel that they should have a different place to protest than the National Anthem. During the National Anthem, people should show respect.

  22. If you really want to make a change then do it in a more civilized, less controversial way. Disrespecting thousands of american soldiers is not the way to make people think calmly and rationally about your stance. But it is their right to have their own opinion so there is nothing we can do about it.

  23. I believe that it is all up to them if the want to continue this. I personally would never do this because I respect my country and the soldiers that fight to keep us safe. But I don’t think their doing this because they have a problem with our soldiers but a problem with the state of which our country is in right now. So is Collin Kaepernick doing the right thing ? I am in no position to say this, it is solely up to this players if they feel there needs to be a change

  24. I think what Colin did was okay, because I understand that white cops can be rude to colored people that have done nothing to deserve it, that is disrespectful, because he didn’t do anything, white cops see black or a different color people as a threat and they need to realize that you can’t choose what color you are you can’t choose how your mom treats you, you just need to respect others for who they are and not judge by the color of skin, some can pick and choose what they respect but put yourself in their shoes and see how it feels to be them while they are dark skin and you are light skin but think about how they feel when your saying things to them, or saying things you shouldn’t say. For Trump to make it that big of a deal was childish and he did it just because Colin is black . Trump has no respect for others or even himself .

  25. I think everyone should stand for the national anthem no matter what but if people want to protest about it they should find a different way. I think standing up for the anthem doesn’t really have anything to do with rights for African Americans. I do believe the NFL players have a choice to do whatever they want, I think if they kneel or stand it’s fine either way, at least they are being respectful about it.

  26. i do not believe in the kneeling. It is a huge disrespect to the Americans who severed. The 3 minutes the anthem play is 3 minutes that we should rember the people that fought for our contrey. if you kneel then that is pretty much saying that you don´t care about our contry

  27. The NFL Players have the right to kneel. If that is their choice nobody can stop them they are respecting what they believe. But I do not think that they should because it takes on average 1 min 40 seconds and if they can’t stand that long it seems pretty disrespectful to the troupes and the United states and how far we have come as a country. Also President Trump should watch what he says because he may be an American and have the right to speech but swearing is not protected by that first amendment. I think we should go back to the days were the players were in the locker room during the national anthem or not show the players on TV this way we don’t have this giant political uproar.

  28. I think it’s extremely rude to sit or kneel during the National Anthem. It seems like it grew because people kept making a huge deal of it, such as the president. It was not very mature of him to swear and say that he should get fired. I don’t disagree with what he’s saying, he just could’ve used better words to express his thoughts. By doing this and making a PSA he just directed more attention and more people decided to do it, some may have done it just because they don’t like Trump. If Kaepernick truly thinks there’s an issue he should go out and do something about it, not create an unnecessary problem.

  29. I do not agrees with kneeling down for the national anthem, I think it shows disrespect to our players and to our country. There’s other ways to protest use a different one then taking it out on the men who fight for u everyday.

  30. When you stand for the flag your honoring our country and the people who fought for our freedom, not for anybody’s rights. I don´t mind what NFL players are protesting for, but I don´t like the way they are protesting. I feel kneeling for the anthem did not and will not solve anything, it just made more controversy.

  31. The choice that players make to kneel during the national anthem is totally legal and up to them but in my opinion is a really selfish choice. I disagree with the players who kneel because many Americans have given their lives so they could stand there and they choose to disrespect it. In my mind it’s all to get attention. They can disrespect anything else but just don’t do it to your country that people have died to save.

  32. I believe that these football players should be able to stand up and put their hand on their heart for a few minutes before every game, our country is paying these people millions of dollars to play a sport they love in front of many people, they should be thankful and not disrespect the people that are dying in other country’s to keep your life happy and healthy. I also do believe in equality for all races but I don’t believe that white police officers are purposefully killing african american’s just because of their race.

  33. I don’t feel that protesting during the national anthem is the right way to do it because I think they could have done it in many other ways. So many kids look up to these players and then these kids think they should do it. I feel that everyone should just stand for the national anthem and protest a different way.

  34. Overall, I personally believe that the football players who decided to kneel and use their first amendment- the freedom of speech, had the right to do so. Yes, to some it may seem rude and disrespectful to kneel while we should be standing with our hand to our heart remembering those who fought for America and to be thankful for the rights given to us by the constitution, the football players were trying to take a stand for those whose constitutional rights were being taken away. The football players weren’t being disrespectful to those who have served, since their many focus was on the constitutional rights that weren’t being given to some individuals. It was a bold move, but if they believe that America is not giving everyone their rights from the constitution, then they’re not going to act like everything is okay and celebrate America.

  35. I feel that we as americans have the right to express our beliefs in ways that we want solely because we have the freedom to do so, but that doesn’t mean i’m saying disrespecting our country would be considered tolerable, nor am I accusing the players who knelt during the national anthem disrespecting our country. What they were doing wasn’t necessarily done with the purpose of disrespecting the pride of america, more or less their way of getting their method of getting their message out there. It shouldn’t be considered un-patriotic to not stand for the national anthem. We americans have every right to do so.

  36. I personally do not think that what the NFL players did was wrong in any way. They stood up for what they believed and that seemed wrong to some people. Just because you play sports doesn’t mean you don’t have any rights and should just “stick to sports” as some people would say. I appreciate that these players didn’t let anyone put them in a corner or shut them out just because of what they believe in. That not only takes leadership skills but that also takes guts to be able to do that protest on your own. Everyone has their own opinion and I say that the players stuck to their opinion and did the right thing.