Scoring For Liberty: NFL Takes A Jab At Free Speech

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National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell delivers remarks during an event at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., launching an initiative between the Army and the NFL to work to raise awareness about traumatic brain injury Aug. 30, 2012. Goodell and U.S. Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the chief of staff of the Army, jointly signed a letter formalizing the initiative during the event. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/Released)

Players in the National Football League will now be required to stand for the national anthem if they are on the field for the ceremonies due to a unanimous vote of the NFL team owners on Wednesday. Any player attempting to kneel or sit during the Star Spangled Banner will be fined.

“We want people to be respectful of the national anthem, […] [But] we were also very sensitive to give players choices,” stated Commissioner Roger Goodell. The decision has brought much criticism, with one reporter from the Chicago Tribune stating “That a league would rule against that idea of free speech, even as it has the right to control how it runs its product, creates appalling optics.”

President Trump applauded the vote and stated to players who don’t want to stand for the anthem “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing. You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”

While the organization is a business, whose viewership decreased largely due to the protests, and is at liberty to designate employee behavior how they please, it is alarming how a president used their position to push a company to enforce certain policies.

Trump has repeatedly made comments on the NFL’s handling of the protests started by San Francisco quarterback Colin Kapernick, including calling for teams to fire players who are protesting for “a total disrespect of our heritage,” encouraging the suspension of an Oakland player who stood for the Mexican anthem, but not the U.S.’s, and denying that the protests had anything to do with race, but instead were intentional disrespect.

Shaun King, of The Young Turks, claimed that President Trump’s influential statements were illegal based on a U.S. Code that prohibits government representatives from “wrongfully influencing a private entities employment decisions,” but, as Sports Illustrated reports, this may not be the case due to language of the law calling for “the intent to influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation.”

The president is entitled to his opinions, but Donald Trump has a lot of influence over everyday people and businesses, and demonstrates a lack of responsibility in what he says. He has belittled the commissioner of the NFL for “[losing] control of the league” and allowing the players to run things, among other comments about the league’s need to change.

It should alarm everyone when a president uses his platform to encourage businesses to strip employees of their free speech and ability to protest. Times like these are when people must step up and disown those who which to silence others, especially those whom we disagree.

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Luke Henderson

Since joining the Libertarian Party in 2016, Luke Henderson has been active in the liberty movement through journalism and political activism. Luke is an educator, composer of fine art and electronic music, and also contributes to Think Liberty, Antiwar.com and the Libertarian Coalition.