Pro athletes have rights too

Pro athletes have rights too

Tim Eggert

Sunday’s Detroit Lions game ended in heartbreak for fans of the pro-football team—a technical subtlety simultaneously revoked the literal-last second touchdown and ended the game. The cause of the controversial conclusion: contact between receiver Golden Tate’s knee and the turf before he reached the end zone.

Tate’s contact with the field wasn’t the only controversy surrounding players’ knees over the weekend, however. Before the Lions game, and games across the National Football League (NFL), players, coaches and team-owners knelt during the National Anthem in symbolic protest of remarks made by President Trump Friday night during a campaign trip to Alabama.

When Trump cycled through a tirade of fervent comments against NFL players who don’t stand during the playing or singing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” cheers of “USA, USA” rang out. When players knelt, raised their fists and linked arms in solidarity, waves of “boos” broke over stadium seats.

Since the nationally-televised protests, Trump has tweeted over 20 times in regard to the
objections; his argument: it’s disrespectful to ignore nationally-recognized procedures of patriotism. The argument of the nearly 200 players who protested: ignoring social justice and devaluing freedom of expression is offensive.

The avalanche of controversy has been triggered by both sides, but, no flag should be thrown for the players’ actions. Peaceful protest doesn’t mean you, “should be fired!”

Democracy exists to provide all perspectives with a voice; if citizens can express extremist views, then NFL players can take a knee. The difference between protests in Charlottesville and the NFL, however, is that the former was violent, whereas the latter was peaceful. Despite this, Trump labeled white nationalists as “very fine people” and named unified players as “son of a bitch[es].”

Trump claims his criticism has nothing to do with race, only respect for our country and our flag, and I believe him, but his comments Friday contradict a fundamental nucleus of democracy: the right of the people to peacefully protest. The President has a right to feature his individual perspective, but to uphold and propagate objective democracy requires poise, patience and parity.

Professional athletes may seem like superheroes, but they’re still human, and more importantly, citizens entitled to the rights of democracy. Censoring their solidarity and isolating them from the rest of the collective through a moral-argument by the figurehead of modern-democracy defies equality, and promotes privilege.

We should embrace the national influence of pro-athletes, so long as they appropriately
practice their rights. If we’re equal to them, then they inherently have the same right as we do. Issues of racial inequality would have persisted if it wasn’t for Jesse Owens and Tommie Smith advocating for change. So why should we bench players in the NFL?

Ultimately, patriotism is subjective; placing a hand over your heart may be your way of
expressing it, whereas kneeling during the National Anthem is the way of others. Both embody democracy, and both are equal in their shared rights. So, let’s transcend duality, and unite, because “E Pluribus Unum” means “out of many, one.”