Written by Ceylan Borgers
The NFL’s silent protest has been attracting loud reactions from the media and its fans. Not surprisingly, one of the most critical voices against this movement is President Trump. Using Twitter as his usual weapon of choice, Donald Trump did not hesitate to press send on his many tweets blasting the NFL. Trump deemed the NFL teams and its players unpatriotic for not standing up during the American National Anthem. With one easy stroke, Trump is painting an inaccurate image of the true meaning behind these protests. These football players are not protesting the “flag”, nor in any way intend to show disrespect towards those who serve and protect their country. Rather, they are showing their discontent towards the systemic discrimination, including police brutality, that many African-Americans have faced and still face today.
This controversy goes beyond the morality of kneeling as a silent protest during the National Anthem. Freedom of expression is the foundation of any liberal society, which in this case, seems to be a fundamental right at risk of being compromised. Freedom of speech is the right to express one’s opinions and ideas freely, without fear of punishment. While no NFL player or any other professional athlete has been fired, a few high school athletes have reportedly been kicked out of their teams for kneeling during the national anthem.
As many people recall, the Alt-Right protests in Charlottesville gained a lot of media attention, while it took a few days for the President to come out with a statement. Not only was his statement long past its due date, but it also stated that there were “good people” on both sides. Trump did not seem concerned at all by the impact these rather violent protests may have on the future of his nation. On the contrary, the silent and peaceful protests by the NFL gained immediate and harsh reactions from Trump.
Trump’s populist and divisive rhetoric is hurting Americans, rather than bringing them together. This twitter rampage is distracting people from more important issues, such as the current crisis in Puerto Rico and health-care.
It is difficult to understand why Trump would choose to focus on the NFL kneel as an issue. Perhaps it is in line with his populist rhetoric or perhaps it is to distract people from greater issues plaguing his presidency. Amidst this controversy, it is important not to lose sight of more pressing and important issues and to be vocal when our fundamental rights seem to be under attack. In the words taken from The Friends of Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”