Free Speech and the NFL

Last Friday, President Trump decided to wage war against the NFL, calling for players who knelt during the national anthem to be fired. He continued his attacks over the weekend in a series of tweets, eventually encouraging Americans to boycott the NFL if the protests continued. In response, the owners and players of teams around the league came together in solidarity. Some linked arms during the anthem, others knelt on the sidelines, and some stayed in the tunnel or locker rooms for the duration of the "Star Spangled Banner."

The protests started last season when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat, then knelt during the national anthem, saying, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people, and people of color." Only a handful of players had joined in Kaepernick's protest until last week, when President Trump's remarks added fuel to the fire.

Now, both the right and the left are in a heated debate over whether or not the players should kneel. Many on the left argue that it is the players' way of using their national platform to protest the oppression of minorities in our society. On the other side, the argument is that it is disrespectful to our flag and the men and women in our military. Regardless of which side you take, the one thing we must agree on is that the players can kneel, as long as the owners allow it

The players, just as all Americans do, have the right to peaceful protest as protected under the First Amendment. They have also entered into a contract with the owners of these teams, and it is the right of the owner to terminate that contract if he wishes. This case is similar to that of Curt Schilling at ESPN. Mr. Schilling stated on Facebook that he was opposed to the new transgender bathroom laws passed last year. While he was allowed to do this, ESPN considered this a breach of his contract and fired him.

The issue today has become a very divisive one for Americans. While debate is healthy, we must not argue for the loss of one of our most basic rights as Americans. Whether we agree or disagree with the players, we must respect their First Amendment rights.


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