By Valerie Ploumpis
“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,” said Trump with evident satisfaction after the National Football League announced its new policy that players who kneel on the field during the Star-Spangled Banner will face punitive fines.
Leaving aside the notion that football players should somehow lose their right to live in their own country because they are protesting racial inequality is as bizarre as it is hypocritical: freedom of speech and expression is central to the U.S. Constitution.
Then-San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick was fully protected under the 1st Amendment when he refused to stand during the National Anthem in 2016 saying he would not “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
Equality California cheered when Kaepernick, along with hundreds of other football players, coaches and some owners, knelt and locked arms in solidarity. They were not showing “disrespect” to the flag or to America; on the contrary, they — like Equality California — believe that dissent is patriotic.
As LGBTQ Californians, we too feel the sting of Trump’s hypocrisy. How can he praise bigoted bakers and florists who cite their moral objections to serving same-sex couples who want to buy wedding cakes and bouquets, but demean professional athletes who express their moral objections to racial oppression and police brutality by calling them SOBs and demanding them to be fired?
Equality California unequivocally supports Kaepernick’s right to speak and kneel in protest. We are appalled that the NFL – a cozy club of almost exclusively rich white men who literally own the teams whose rosters are 70% young African-American athletes – succumbed to the Trump-Pence bullying, instead of standing with their players who are demanding justice.
Our work is not done until everyone – LGBTQ and straight, black and white, Asian and Latinx, Muslim and Jewish, undocumented and US-born– achieves full equality.