By CASEY BRENNAN
I’m not the biggest sports fan; in fact, I doubt I could name five NFL teams off the top of my head. I do, however, care a lot about being able to freely express oneself through free speech or the right to voice one’s opinion. I see the “Take a Knee” movement, in which some of the NFL players are kneeling during the national anthem to bring awareness to racial inequalities, as a very powerful form of symbolic speech. This form of expression is undoubtedly protected by the First Amendment.
Personally, I do not agree with the notion of sitting down or kneeling during the national anthem. I see the tradition of playing the anthem at sporting events as a way to honor those who have fought for our freedom and safety and put our differences aside to have a moment of unity. Although I don’t personally agree with what some of the NFL players are doing, they have the constitutional right to choose whether or not they want to stand or kneel during the anthem.
I respect these protesters not only for embracing their constitutional rights, but also for using their platform to peacefully protest and bring attention to issues concerning social inequalities. I do not see the act of kneeling during the anthem as a national crisis in which America needs to debate nonstop. President Donald Trump, however, has made his opinion on the topic very apparent with endless tweets. In fact, I believe Trump is stirring up much more controversy than necessary, as he is poorly responding to the athletes kneeling during the anthem.
The two main issues I have with Trump’s use of Twitter to voice his opinion on the “Take a Knee” movement would be his authoritarian tone with which he addresses the NFL and its players, and the amount of time he is putting into making all of these tweets. He has repeatedly suggested that the players that are kneeling during the national anthem should be fired for their actions. This is not the first time Trump suggested a punishment for disrespecting a national symbol. In November of 2016, he also took to Twitter to write that there should be a punishment for burning the American flag, even implying that the consequences could include removal of citizenship or jail time. As someone who is a huge supporter of the First Amendment, this idea of placing more importance over enforcing national respect than the protection of free expression is concerning. Although I don’t particularly agree with kneeling during the anthem, and I absolutely do not agree with burning the American flag, banning these acts is simply unconstitutional. So why must Trump spend so much time and energy criticizing something that he has no power to control?
In addition to how strongly Trump is criticizing this issue, the amount of time he has spent tweeting about it is alarming. Trump has been tweeting about this issue every day of the week, multiple times a day. What disturbs me the most is the fact that he puts so much time and effort into voicing his opinions on a peaceful demonstration, a form of free expression, while saying very little regarding major issues. In fact, on Sept. 24th alone, Donald Trump made eight tweets regarding the NFL. However, the president only made two tweets regarding the Las Vegas shooting within 48 hours of the incident. It is sickening and quite disheartening that the President of the United States has much more to say about the athletes kneeling during the national anthem than he does on legitimate issues such as the deadliest mass shooting in the United States. Imagine what could be accomplished with all the time Trump spends on Twitter being focused on more important matters. So much more time would be devoted to improving education, the job market, the economy and introducing bipartisan legislation regarding these issues. Mr. President, it is time to stop worrying about athletes kneeling during the anthem. It is time to stop tweeting about NFL players using their platform to speak their mind and focus on your job as leader of the United States of America.