Let's Debate When NFL Players Take a Knee, Not Walk Away
Vice President Mike Pence, front center, stands during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Vice President Mike Pence was attending a game a National Football League on Sunday between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers. Some players from the 49ers kneeled during the Star Spangled Banner, while some Colts wore black T-shirts with the words “We Will” on the front and “Stand for equality, justice, unity, respect, dialogue, opportunity” on the back. The players stood with their arms locked during the anthem.

Then Mike Pence walked out of the game on in his home state of Indiana.

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“I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence said in a statement issued by the White House.

So there’s no merit in what VP Pence did today. We can asume that it was a political stunt by this sitting administration—assuming it by analyzing President Trump’s own tween. He said in a tweet on Sunday that he asked Pence to leave the stadium “if any player kneeled, disrespecting our country.” He said he was proud of Pence and his wife, Karen. So, Pence just followed orders.

President Donald Trump has criticized players sharply for the protests and pressed the NFL to ban them.

Though the right to participate in such a protest is protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, critics of players kneeling at the pre-game playing of the national anthem, including Trump, object to any protest, regardless of its merits, during a ceremony meant to honor the U.S. flag and military veterans.

This is what critics —including the president— need to understand without meaning they’ll be less patriotic or else.

The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress its powers and limits. Congress is the legislative branch of the government, meaning they are the ones to make laws for the United States of America.

But in the Bill of Right, this article was amended to this: “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 First Amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding 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. In 1968, the first federal Flag Protection Act was passed by Congress in response to protest burnings of the flag at demonstrations against the Vietnam War and allowed Congress to prohibit by statute and provide punishment for the physical “desecration” of the flag of the United States. The concept of flag desecration continues to provoke a heated debate over protecting a national symbol, preserving free speech, and upholding the liberty said to be represented by that national symbol.

The flag burning constitutes a form of “symbolic speech” that is protected by the First Amendment. The majority notes that freedom of speech protects actions that society may find very offensive, but society’s outrage alone is not justification for suppressing free speech. So in 1989, there was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that invalidated prohibitions on desecrating the American flag enforced in 48 of the 50 states. Justice William Brennan wrote for a five-justice majority in holding that the defendant Gregory Lee Johnson’s act of flag burning in the case of Texas v. Johnson, was protected speech under the First Amendment to Constitution.

The same seems to happen now in regards to taking a knee by the NFL players nowadays. This was started by Kaepernick who wanted to protest social injustice and police brutality. So Kaepernick has the right to kneel because he’s not committing a crime, and there is no limit as to where and when you can exercise your 1st amendment right in this country. If there’s an outcry towards kneeling, are we looking into the motives? If we are looking into the motives, why isn’t social injustice, racism, police brutality, and inequality on the table for discussion and only the disrespectful part of the story. And would calling NFL players sons of bitches be the right debate to meet all sentiments half way and dignify the flag?

If Mike Pense has two sons, and one of them agrees with Kaepernick while the other not, would he call the first a S.O.B. or will he use his parenting duty to meditate as a father would do and reach a consensus in his family where everyone respects one another as a family?

That’s exactly what’s needed in this case. Don’t hate Kaepernick; he is not the problem. Talk about the problem (social injustice, racism, inequality) just like our country’s founding fathers did when they created the constitution.

In 1947, the Court drew on Thomas Jefferson’s correspondence to call for “a wall of separation between church and State” and expanded significantly in a series of 20th and 21st-century court decisions which protected various forms of political speech, anonymous speech, campaign financing, pornography, and school speech, publication of information and opinions, the right of assembly, and the freedom of association. Freedom of speech now includes the right not to speak (specifically, the right not to salute the flag), of students to wear black armbands to school to protest a war (“students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”), to use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages, to contribute money (under certain circumstances) to political campaigns, to advertise commercial products and professional services (with some restrictions), to engage in symbolic speech, (e.g. burning the flag in protest).

Maybe it is time to include kneeling as a stated form of expression to avoid the controversial dichotomy and move on the solve serious problems in our country nowadays.

Argue the #TakeaKnee motive, but walking out on a constitutional right is not the solution. Let’s debate when NFL players take a knee, not walk away.