Last month, President Trump said that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the National Anthem. He said those players are disrespecting the flag and everything it stands for. Trump also encouraged spectators to walk out of stadiums in protest.
More and more NFL players and other athletes have been refusing to stand during the National Anthem since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt at games during the National Anthem last season. Kaepernick said his decision was in silent protest of racial inequality and the way police officers treat African American citizens. Whether we agree or disagree with this form of protest, it is protected by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution.
Kaepernick was eventually fired from the team; he is now a free agent, yet to be signed for this season. However, other athletes have now taken up his cause.
Last Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence left a football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers after some players knelt during the National Anthem, saying he did not want to "dignify" the demonstration. The journalists accompanying the Vice President were not allowed into the stadium and were asked to wait in their vans. They were told by a staffer that "there may be an early departure from the game," but were not given any further details. Was this a pre-planned political walkout?
I presume that we can all agree that the American Flag and the National Anthem are symbols of the concept of ‘America.’ In respecting such principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we should also recognize the right of an individual to choose whether or not to participate in our celebration of the National Anthem.
In light of other recent news, all of this then begs the question: Who is more disrespectful to our country and its citizens – President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence or Colin Kaepernick? Let’s examine the record:
In 2015, then Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that gave businesses the right to refuse to serve homosexual people. He has also been noted to support “conversion therapy,” a process that has been debunked by all major health professions.
In a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, a conservative panel declared that then Governor Pence engaged in “nightmare speculation” when he tried to prevent Syrian refugees from lawfully immigrating into Indiana. Here's a key passage from its ruling:
He argues that his policy of excluding Syrian refugees is based not on nationality and thus is not discriminatory, but is based solely on the threat he thinks they pose to the safety of residents of Indiana. But that’s the equivalent of his saying (not that he does say) that he wants to forbid black people to settle in Indiana, not because they’re black, but because he’s afraid of them; and since race is therefore not his motive, he isn’t discriminating. But that of course would be racial discrimination, just as his targeting Syrian refugees is discrimination on the basis of nationality.
Last December, Trump declared that he wanted to sign an executive order putting all “cop killers” to death. Most politicians and legal scholars know that capital punishment is a state, not federal, function. Even if such an order was possible, it does not account for every possible scenario. For example, what if there was a “bad” cop who was trying to kill an innocent citizen and that citizen shot him in self-defense? What if a shooting was accidental?
Trump wants to silence the press. He threatens to sue any publication that criticizes him and shouts “fake news” whenever an investigation comes too close.
The President wants to expel “anchor babies” from the country. In order to do so, he would have to, somehow, strip them of their citizenship rights. Fortunately, under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, the government does not have that authority.
Trump supports mass deportation and his policies toward Muslims are blatantly unconstitutional. For the most part, we are talking about American citizens. Here’s a quote, straight for the President: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Kaepernick has been the subject of a vicious and very public attack for exercising his 1st Amendment rights. He has been ‘blackballed’ from pursuing his chosen career because of his peaceful stand for equality, one that has prompted a league-wide movement.
He founded the Colin Kaepernick Foundation to fight oppression of all kinds globally, through education and social activism. To date, the Foundation has raised $900,000 of its $1,000,000 goal.
Kaepernick founded a ‘know your rights’ camp to raise awareness on high education, self-empowerment, and instruction on how to interact with law enforcement.
So, who is more ‘un-American? Is it a man who harms no one and peacefully exercises his 1st Amendment rights in opposition to inequality and oppression? Or, is it a president and vice-president who ignore the United States Constitution, suggest revoking citizenships, and threaten the civil rights of minorities? We, the people, need to ask ourselves what ‘America’ truly stands for.