The topic of freedom of speech is headline news recently, mostly because of the silent protests by kneeling football players at NFL games during the national anthem and accusations that the protesters are being disrespectful to the flag, America, and the military.
Colin Kaepernick started the protests at a 2016 preseason game by sitting on the bench during the national anthem. Only a few people even noticed it. When teammate Eric Reid finally asked him why he was sitting, Colin explained that it was to protest the killings of black people committed by police officers. After listening to his explanation Reid, a devout Christian like Kaepernick, decided to join in the protest. In a New York Times column Reid said, “That’s when my faith moved me to take action. I looked to James 2:17, which states, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” I knew I needed to stand up for what is right.” According to Reid, “We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”
Although several players joined the protest, it had fallen from public attention until Donald Trump chose to make an issue of it at a campaign rally in Alabama, calling the protesting athletes a profane name and urging NFL team owners to fire them for kneeling. Trump called athletes who kneel to protest violence SOBs who should be fired, but called the Charlottesville protesters waving Nazi and Confederate flags “good people” and cited the First Amendment as giving them the right to march in Virginia.
It is rare that I agree with Donald Trump about anything, but he is right that the First Amendment gives white supremacists the right to march and scream their hate speech as much as they want. However, that same amendment gives black athletes the right to protest as they see fit. I personally do not see a silent protest on blended knee nearly as disrespectful as the behavior of fans in the stands talking, eating, drinking beer, and walking around during the anthem.
The First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech applies to the opinions of all Americans, not just the ones we agree with. As President John F. Kennedy said, “the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” If any citizen’s right to free expression is infringed upon, all of our American freedoms are at risk of being lost. If and when that happens, our once great country will truly be lost as well.