As a direct descendent of George Mason (the father of the Bill of Rights), I fully support the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states: “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.”
However, there is a time and place to exercise free speech, and during the playing of the National Anthem at nationally televised football games is not the place to express a sentiment that African Americans are being treated unfairly by the police – wrong venue, wrong song. It fails to convey the point, it angers people needlessly, and the original intent of the protest has become lost in translation. The operations of the police have nothing to do with the National Football League, period.
As a Vietnam veteran, I am appalled that anyone (especially wealthy professional football players) would not stand with their hand over their heart during the playing of the National Anthem, as is the custom. The taking of the knee during the National Anthem is seen as totally disrespectful to those of us who have served their country, and especially to those who have family members who have given their lives in support of the First Amendment. I do not think the intent of the original protestor was to insult the military.
Rather than continue to distract the intent of the games, (which is sports entertainment that has overtones of patriotism) let us work together to find an appropriate First Amendment venue for football player grievances, such as different helmet colors, badges, socks, armbands, or some other way to express solidarity over a social cause that does not offend the intent of the National Anthem. If we continue to have this contentious debate, soccer, rugby and other more peaceful sports will be the replacements after the demise of professional football. Instead of seeing the knee being taken, we will hear g-oaaaa-l!
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet