Are kneeling NFL players acting appropriately? Yes: Constitution protects players’ protest of criminal-justice system

Otto JohnsonThe point has been brought up that the players are disrespecting the flag by kneeling during the national anthem before games. Some, including President Donald Trump, have said kneeling players should be forced to stand or be kicked out of the league.

It is my belief the players have a right to choose whether to stand or kneel. Why? Because the very flag they are kneeling in front of guarantees them that right to make a choice. The First Amendment allows citizens of this country, which most of the players are, to speak how they would like, to stand how they would like, and to do what they would like as long as it doesn’t break any laws.

The First Amendment states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Under the flag of the United States of America, you can protest, petition the government, and even burn the flag.

The key word here is “protest.” All these players are doing is protesting what they say is an unjust system. Their position is that the American justice system is unfair toward black Americans.

To be perfectly honest, it is. Per the NAACP, African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white men. Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32 percent of the U.S. population, they comprised 56 percent of all incarcerated people in 2015.

Further, the Guardian states that people who are African American are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while unarmed compared to caucasians or people who are white. It is clear from glancing at the statistics that white people have an advantage in the justice system. All the people protesting are looking for is equality.

Yet, for some reason, many people are upset by this. Trump, who claims to be for liberty and freedom, told the NFL the protesting players should be fired. For what reason? Because they stood up for what they believe in?

I don’t condone taking a knee during the national anthem; I always will stand because that’s what I feel is right. But I will never condemn anyone for taking a knee during the national anthem. It is their right, under the Constitution, to protest and to take a knee if they see fit. They are, in fact, being patriotic by exercising a constitutional right.

Let them protest as they like. It really isn’t affecting anyone else. Those who don’t like it can focus on living their own lives rather than going on Twitter and Facebook to complain. They can stop going against the Constitution.

Otto Johnson of Duluth is an NFL fan who grew up in the Twin Cities.

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