NFL owners are reportedly considering changing national anthem rules leading players to suspect they will be forced to stand during the song — but some athletes aren’t having it, and for good reason.
Gerald McCoy, a defensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, told sports writer Adam Schefter on his Know Them From Adam podcast program that players would be outraged if standing became mandatory.
McCoy explained to Schefter, “I don't think guys are gonna like it,” adding that players would feel such a policy would violate their freedoms. “I think it's gonna be an uproar if that is to happen because you're basically taking away a constitutional right to freedom of speech.”
McCoy pointed out the absurdity of the proposal.
“If guys wanna have a, I guess you would call it a peaceful protest, I don't think it's right to take that away from guys,” he said.
Some owners have already suggested that their players could be benched for engaging in silent protests during the anthem. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made such a threat this past week, saying quite matter-of-factly that, "if there is anything disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told owners this week that he believes players should stand up. In a memo that leaked to the press, Goodell emphasized that he wanted to come up with a plan that respected players’ opinions. But he also stated that it was important for the league “to move past this controversy.”
President Donald Trump reacted warmly to that leaked memo, tweeting his support for the commissioner.
It is about time that Roger Goodell of the NFL is finally demanding that all players STAND for our great National Anthem-RESPECT OUR COUNTRY— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2017
Goodell made sure to notify the president that this assumption was inaccurate — he is not forcing players to stand.
It’s unclear what the proposal Goodell is thinking of right now would entail. But any proposal that would curtail a player’s free speech rights won’t be likely to garner support from the NFL Players’ Association, the union that represents players across the league.
The silent protests are meant to bring about a conversation on race relations in this nation, notably the shootings of unarmed people of color by law enforcement.
Trump and other lawmakers, however, have made attempts to repurpose the protests as a culture war issue. Vice President Mike Pence’s walkout of the Indianapolis Colts game this past weekend was meant to do just that — and possibly raise campaign dollars for Trump’s re-election in 2020.
These protests aren’t causing any direct harm to individuals and have been carefully considered. When Colin Kaepernick began them in 2016, he spoke with veterans personally to ask them what form of protest would be most respectful while still getting his point across. They told him that kneeling would be best.
Critics are well-within their rights to argue against kneeling as a form of protest, but the right to do so should not be infringed.
NFL players are citizens of this country, and they are deserving of the right to speak their minds in a peaceful manner. Their kneeling does just that.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Dale Zanine/Reuters