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Kneel Before Trump: Is the NFL Controversy Overblown?

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Brian Sandler, Contributing Writer

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When one thinks of presidential issues, several vivid images probably would come to mind, such as the state of the economy, relationships with potentially hostile nations and… football players not standing for the national anthem?

A few weekends ago, President Donald Trump unleashed a tirade against several NFL players who knelt instead of standing during the routine national anthem before games. With divided reactions across the United States, is Trump’s reaction justified or are his actions not worthy of standing behind in more ways than one?

In my opinion, Trump’s reaction is completely overblown. Not only is he insinuating that the players who protested standing for the national anthem should be stripped of their jobs, he is implying that the players are not worthy of being considered American citizens. This attitude is inappropriate for a president to display, as it goes against our constitution, undermines several key periods in American history and displays immense hypocrisy from his party.

Trump’s insinuation that the players who protested are not worthy of being considered Americans violates the very essence of our Constitution, particularly our first amendment. The first amendment of the United States makes it clear that “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.”

The players who refused to stand for the national anthem were doing so due to grievances they had with issues involving the government treatment of minorities, which was a form of peaceful protesting. Implying that citizens, football players included, who civilly dissent against the national anthem are not “real Americans” is ignorant and outright defiant of the right to free speech that our constitution allows us.

The backlash against the football players protesting the national anthem also ignores several key periods in American history where civil disobedience against governmental policy advanced us as a nation.

During the 1960s, our country was ravaged by war not only in Vietnam, but also on the home front, as racial tension reached catastrophic new highs. Civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. made headway for oppressed minorities in the United States because he dissented against the government peacefully and refused to stand behind the tyrannical policies that the government was pushing onto citizens.

Additionally, there was a sizable protest movement against the Vietnam War that proved that citizens would not mindlessly endorse government policies in a shallow show of patriotism. Considering that civil dissent moved forward minority rights and kept government actions in line, peacefully protesting against the flag should be allowed at the absolute minimum, not threatened with authoritarian notions of “nationalism” or what a “real American” is.

The backlash against the NFL protesters from Trump and fellow Republicans also is extremely hypocritical. Many Republicans have rallied against Democrats for their alleged obsession with political correctness and insistence on removing offensive historical symbols.

This view wouldn’t be horrible on its own, but since many conservative Republicans are now demanding people be forced to stand for the national anthem, this has shown immense hypocrisy.

If one side is going to demand that the other stops censoring free speech, then the very side that called out the other side has an obligation to protect all forms of free speech, even if they do not personally agree with it. If one side gets to be uncensored, then all sides must be uncensored.

Trump’s insinuation at the protesters and all others who do not stand for the national anthem is probably the most anti-nationalistic argument I’ve heard in a long time. If we aren’t even allowed to civilly protest our government, are we truly any different from our dictatorial enemies?

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William Paterson University's Official Student-Run Newspaper
Kneel Before Trump: Is the NFL Controversy Overblown?