Take a Knee

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Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem. // Credit: Rolling Stone.

Donald Trump recently called for the firing of NFL players who don’t stand for the national anthem, saying “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a b**** off the field right now…out…he’s fired…he’s fired!” Let’s not downplay this. The President of the United States, speaking at a campaign related event, called for a private-sector organization to fire some of its employees for silently, peacefully protesting documented racial injustice, a right granted to that employee in the Constitution of the United States of America even though this protest was not against the rules of that organization and did not interfere with their work performance. Oh yeah, and you know the statement was presidential when it has to be censored any time anybody talks about it.

 

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a b**** off the field right now…out…he’s fired…he’s fired!”

 

Donald Trump’s hypocritical position on NFL players kneeling during the national anthem is nowhere near surprising. For his entire life, Donald Trump has put his self-interests above all else, and it doesn’t matter what his position on a topic is as long as it ends up being better for him. In this case, the Donald wants to pander to his weakening base by appearing to be patriotic (#Murica#MAGA). In the past, Trump, along with many other conservative mouthpieces, have bashed college campuses and college students for infringing upon the rights of conservative speakers to freedom of speech (as if those speakers have a constitutional right to speak at those campuses…news flash: they don’t), but now, the tables have turned, and so have their opinions on the concept of free speech.

 

Trump’s comments were certainly controversial, and those brave enough to defend him on cable news had some…interesting perspectives on the topic (and by interesting I mean just what you’d expect from a guy who married his high school geometry teacher and then cheated on and divorced her while she was in the hospital fighting uterine cancer).

 

In a recent video posted by Trump’s favorite news network, Newt Gingrich offers up a range of ambitions claims which I will summarize here for the lazy:

  1. All liberals hate America, especially college students, the Hollywood elite, and Jimmy Kimmel.
  2. NFL players protesting the anthem think they’re oppressed but really should be grateful for all the money they have.
  3. NFL players need to see a psychiatrist.

 

First of all, these statements are quite ironic. In my opinion, Trump bashing one of the most important amendments to the Constitution is pretty anti-American, but here, Gingrich somehow pivots enough to make liberals the un-American ones. Take that Jimmy Kimmel! Secondly, money can’t change the color of one’s skin, and if you’re a black man walking down the street and you get shot by a cop, being rich really isn’t going to help you. Take Michael Bennet, a two-time pro bowl selected defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks. This year, Michael Bennett will earn $16 million, but that didn’t stop this from happening to him in Las Vegas just over a month ago. You see Newt, NFL players aren’t protesting as NFL players, they’re protesting as black men, and black men are being oppressed in this country no matter how many times you say they aren’t. As for NFL players needing a psychiatrist, he’s probably right about that one. /s

 

This tweet, despite making some generalizations that I don’t necessarily agree with, makes a tremendously important statement nevertheless. By making it anti-American to protest inequality in America, Gingrich is suggesting that inequality is such an integral part of American life that if you protest injustice, you must hate America. This is a scary perspective on what it means to be American, and we should ask ourselves every day, “What does it mean to be an American,” and “What, exactly, are American values?”

 

Jack Ryan