Anthem, kneeling & free speech

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones kneels with his players and coaches before start of the National Anthem on Monday Night Football (Photo courtesy of the National Football League)
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones kneels with his players and coaches before start of the National Anthem on Monday Night Football. (Photo courtesy of the National Football League)

Increasingly, we see National Football League athletes kneel and not stand as the National Anthem is played at stadiums around America.

Some condemn the action as unpatriotic.  President Donald Trump wants NFL owners to fire any player that kneels and urges fans to boycott the games.  Anger spills out on social media like verbal diarrhea.

I find it hypocritical that an American President who routinely and openly breaks federal law and violates his oath of office to the Constitution now wants football players who engage in a non-violent protest fired but that’s a column to explore on another day.

I stand and salute while facing the American flag when the National Anthem is played.  I place my hand over my heart while reciting the pledge of allegiance to the Flag at the opening of meetings of the Board of Supervisors in Floyd County twice each month and again on the first Tuesday of each month at meetings of the Roanoke Valley Harley Owners Group.

The actions are my right as an American.  They are also my choice as a citizen and an individual.

However, I cannot, and will not condemn any American who chooses to kneel or offer any other form of non-violent protest to what they see as a need to expose something they feel is wrong.  National Football League player Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel in a protest against what he feels are excessive violence against African-Americans by some police officers in this country.

Trump’s comments brought more NFL players to their knees in support of Kaepernick and others who feel such protests are necessary and overdue.

As a news photographer, I have photographed protesters burning American flags at protests.  I don’t like seeing the flag burned but the U.S. Supreme Court says that act is protected under the First Amendment as a right of free speech.

Trump disagrees.  He says any American who burns the flag should lose their citizenship or spend a year in jail. In his opinion and too often in his actions, he doesn’t think the Constitution or its amendments, should get in the way.

Congress has tried more than once to create new laws to make flag burning illegal.  Each attempt is shot down by the courts.  That pesky First Amendments keeps getting in the way.

Pesky thing, that First Amendment.  It protects the right of free speech.  It also protects what people like me do for a living with something called “freedom of the press.”

Briefly, the First Amendment “prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, ensuring that there is no prohibition on the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.”

A Floyd County resident this week angrily said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should “to directly to hell” for kneeling with his players before the start of the National Anthem on Monday Night Football and then standing with their arms interlocked during the song.

Last time we checked, entrance to hell was not a guarantee of the Bill of Rights or the Constitution.

Oh, by the way, members of the varsity volleyball Lady Buffaloes hold hands as part of honoring the National Anthem before their games.

© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse