The new NFL rule is an affront to democracy

Sarah Ladd

My social media newsfeeds are full of praises of the NFL for their recent announcement that players will now be required to stand or stay in the locker room during the National Anthem.  

ESPN announced that the owners voted unanimously to the rule, and quoted commissioner Roger Goodell as saying, “We want people to be respectful of the national anthem. We want people to stand — that’s all personnel — and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That’s something we think we owe. [But] we were also very sensitive to give players choices.”

President Trump praised the decision on Thursday, even though he did not approve of the option given to players to remain in the locker rooms.

The new rule comes after a great deal of controversy surrounding some players’ decision to kneel during the anthem in protest of police violence aimed at the African American community.

It frightens me that we’ve come to a point in our nation when free speech is so frowned upon. Consider this: our entire nation is a result of protest. Every good thing we have is because someone had the guts to defy the status quo. If a group of people hadn’t defied a flag and a powerful monarchy, we might still be sipping British tea today.

Our independence as a nation, the Emancipation, the Boston Tea Party, the Suffrage Movement, the Civil Rights movement and others all happened because people were willing to stick out, be arrested or die to challenge something they saw wrong with society.

In short, everything good about our nation is a result of rebellion.

What is the difference between the NFL players being threatened with fines if they do not keep quiet and the ten suffragists who were arrested simply for holding signs in 1917 that requested then-president Woodrow Wilson support legislation that allowed women to vote? Our society is angry at only one of those punishments. We cheer on the courage of Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr., but we criticize Colin Kaepernick.

We are not learning. We still cannot recognize reform when it is front of our eyes.

The new NFL rule sends a clear statement: free speech is OK, but only when it’s hidden and the opposing side cannot be exposed to it.

Instead of looking at the protest, look at the problem itself. A kneeling player is not hurting anyone, but the violence that they’re fighting is damaging us at our core. Are we as Americans afraid to confront the true illnesses in our country behind the facade of red, white and blue, freedom, liberty and justice? If we have not maintained the things the flag stands for, what are we standing for?

Truly, what is more respectful to the American flag and to all the brave soldiers who have fought to defend it than exercising the freedoms it represents?