President Donald Trump is continuing his sharp criticism of NFL players who protest racial disparities in society, specifically at the hands of law enforcement and within the justice system itself, by kneeling during the national anthem.
This time, Trump singled out Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch for standing during the Mexican anthem but not the United States' anthem. Lynch did stand for the first few bars of the American anthem, and while he did stand for the Mexican song, he was not completely at attention. In a tweet, Trump called for Lynch to be reprimanded by the league.
Marshawn Lynch of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders stands for the Mexican Anthem and sits down to boos for our National Anthem. Great disrespect! Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings way down.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2017
The last time Trump had mentioned either the NFL or kneeling in his Twitter rants was in October, according to the Trump Twitter Archive. Taking advantage of the expanded character limits since then, Trump didn’t hold back his opinion, and he said the NFL should “suspend [Lynch] for the remainder of the season."
Lynch has sat during the national anthem for the entire NFL season so far, and even sported a shirt that read “Everybody vs. Trump” in October during the height of Trump’s criticism.
Trump is within his rights to defend his belief that players should stand. But he cannot demand that the players be forced to do so. Engaging NFL players in that way is a direct violation of their First Amendment protections — a freedom of expression which, like it or not, the president is supposed to defend, according to the oath of office Trump took at his inauguration.
Nobody is telling the president that he has to celebrate these protests. But it’s interesting that these attacks center on a controversy that Trump has chosen to ignore — the unfair treatment of African-Americans in our society. This is also the second day in a row that Trump has harangued a black sports star.
On Sunday Trump tweeted out that he should have left three college basketball players to sit in jail cells in China after being arrested for shoplifting. Trump made the comment after one of the players’ fathers, LaVar Ball, suggested the president’s actions weren’t a huge contribution to their release.
“I should have left them in jail,” Trump wrote, even after the three players had already shown their appreciation for their release.
The president is revealing his true nature, and broadcasting to the world his desire to punish individuals who don’t honor or respect him. In a free democracy, however, forced allegiance is shunned, and rightly so. That kind of behavior is more typical among authoritarians than American presidents.