It shouldn’t come as a surprise that while President Donald Trump is keen on using the First Amendment as he pleases, he’s quick to try and keep others from doing so just as freely. In one of his latest Twitter tantrums, our ever-so-poetic leader targeted the National Football League (NFL) and the athletes kneeling during the national anthem. On Sept. 23, President Trump reignited an argument that’s been sitting on the back burner of American politics since former NFL player Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the anthem. On Twitter, he encouraged NFL team owners and coaches to suspend or fire players that also choose to kneel. He also targeted “other leagues” of professional sports and tweeted that if athletes want to be allowed to play, “he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the national anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!” Whether he likes it or not, those participating in the national anthem protests are guaranteed the right to by the Constitution. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America states, “Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech... or the right of the people peaceably to assemble...”; simply kneeling during the national anthem doesn’t kill anyone or disrupt daily life.
The First Amendment is also the reason that we cannot be forced to salute the flag, stand for the national anthem or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. After all, this is the United States, not North Korea, where homes are equipped with loudspeakers that must remain on and blast propaganda that people are forced to listen to.
However, it is possible that the NFL could force players to stand during the anthem. Because NFL teams are private companies, players are essentially employees of the team they play for. The First Amendment (and Constitution as a whole) doesn’t apply to the employee conduct of private entities. Therefore, the league or even individual teams could create a rule that players must stand or otherwise be penalized; the same would go for any other sports league, though for high school and college sports, public institutions could enforce no such rule.
President Trump has also since tweeted that, “Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag -- - we MUST honor and respect it!”; however, veterans fought to protect and uphold the belief system of the United States and the values it is meant to represent, such as freedom, equality, opportunity and representative government; they didn’t fight to protect the flag itself. While the flag is indicative of those beliefs and in turn the country, those who are choosing to kneel are doing so to protest the aforementioned injustices in American society, particularly police brutality. Such injustices shouldn’t even exist - you know, because of those good ‘ole American values that people are supposed to have - which gives all the more reason to continue kneeling.
President Trump, as aforementioned, seems to think the First Amendment only applies to himself. In the past, it has protected his remarks about sexually assaulting women from the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape with Billy Bush, allowed him to call white supremacists “very fine people” while an athlete who kneels in protest is a “son of a b****,” and label the media as “fake news.” He lacks a filter and is quick to say whatever comes to his mind; he uses the first amendment as a crutch that protects his crude remarks, rather than using it to use it positively like those who are kneeling.
The president is supposed to represent all Americans, but President Trump just seems to be more set on dividing the country. He shames people who are exercising their rights and are doing more to bring awareness to America’s injustices and failures than he is. Rather than encouraging NFL owners to limit the freedoms of their players, perhaps he should recognize their right to protest and stop berating them for doing so. Maybe he should do something worthwhile to help correct some of the injustices in this country. While he’s at it, perhaps he should provide Puerto Rico with adequate aid and stop bullying the mayor of its capital... just a thought.