Last Wednesday, the National Football League announced a new policy requiring that, when “The Star-Spangled Banner” is played before games during the upcoming season, “all team and league personnel on the field shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.” Teams whose players kneel or otherwise fail to “show respect for the flag,” as the league’s statement puts it a second time, will be fined. It is counter-productive to demand respect for the flag while undermining the principles for which it stands.
The Democrats Abroad Global Black Caucus - with full support from the broader Democrats Abroad organization - regrets the NFL’s decision to force players to stand during the national anthem. We see this as an infringement on basic rights of self-expression as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. More broadly, it may diminish freedom of expression by employees and limit workers’ rights. Protest is one of the highest forms of patriotism. For these reasons, we applaud the statement by the NFL players’ union.
We need to focus on why the NFL players are kneeling. The critical issues of police brutality, racial injustice, mass incarceration (2.2 million people), and more, which animate today’s civil rights movement, are eloquently summarized in Colin Kaepernick’s April 21st acceptance speech when he received Amnesty International's 2018 Ambassador of Conscience Award. It is necessary to call out and put the brakes on these accelerating anti-democratic actions before they further limit civil and workers’ rights.
As Kaepernick says, “Love is at the root of our resistance”.
Watch Colin Kaepernick's Speech Before Amnesty International to learn the compelling reasons for taking a knee during the National Anthem.