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Commentary: To Kneel or Not

On Saturday, the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump took to Twitter to blast the NFL players that kneel during the national anthem. His tweet set off a firestorm of responses, both for and against.

Trump wasn’t done, he followed up with this tweet.

Later in the afternoon, Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler tweeted this.

Yes, Wheeler is right. These are the principles that our country was founded on. Most of us “should have” learned this in school.

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.

Last year, I touched briefly on this subject — By now you’ve heard of the 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Last season, the five-year pro out of Nevada has created quite the firestorm for refusing to stand for the national anthem during a preseason game.

When asked why he wouldn’t stand for the anthem, Kaepernick said “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

A year later, I really haven’t changed my opinion. We’re Americans’, we have the right to free speech. It’s called the First Amendment. We don’t have to agree with free speech that we find objectionable. That’s the beauty of being an American. Yes, NFL football players have the right to take a knee if they choose, and it’s protected by the US Constitution.

Kneeling is Protected Speech

Kneeling or not, I am still going to watch the NFL. If a player wants to take a knee this it’s his right. Who am I to say he can’t make these statements. Frankly, the president should go back and re-read the constitution. Again, this is constitutionally protected free speech. Personally, I am going to stand for the National Anthem and put my hand on my heart, but I am not going to besmirch someone for exercising their constitutionally protected rights.

This morning, I was having a discussion on this very subject. I was chatting with another co-worker who’s also a veteran. Long, short of it, we’re not all that excited about this. Hey, isn’t the reason why we wore the uniform? Right? To defend the constitution. We don’t pick and choose which amendments we want to follow.

Second, it’s these NFL players’ first amendment right to take a knee. You don’t have to like it, but it’s their right and you can respectfully disagree with them. I am also not going to boycott someone for having an opposing opinion. I think that’s silly.

NFLPA Responds

“The peaceful demonstrations by some of our players have generated a wide array of responses,” NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith released a statement. “Those opinions are protected speech and freedom that has been paid for by the sacrifice of men and women throughout history. This expression of speech has generated thoughtful discussion in our locker rooms and in boardrooms.

“However, the line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just ‘shut up and play.’

“NFL Players do incredible things to contribute to their communities. NFL Players are part of a legacy of athletes in all sports who, throughout history, chose to be informed about the issues that impact them and their communities. They chose — and still, choose today — to do something about those issues rather than comfortably living in the bubble of sports. Their decision is no different from the one made by countless others who refused to let ‘what they do’ define or restrict ‘who they are’ as Americans.”

The Minnesota Vikings Ownership Weighs In

Eden Prairie, MN (September 24, 2017) — Professional sports offer a platform unlike any other, a platform that can bring people from a variety of backgrounds together to impact positive change in our society. As owners, it is our job to foster an environment that recognizes and appreciates the diversity of thought and encourages using this platform in a constructive manner. Rather than make divisive statements, we believe in promoting thoughtful, inspiring conversation that unifies our communities. We are proud of our players, coaches, and staff for the important role they play in our community, and we fully support their constitutional right to respectfully and peacefully express their beliefs.

– Zygi and Mark Wilf and the entire Wilf family

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