NFL players’ protests against racial injustices have inspired lawmakers to take a stand — or, rather, take a knee.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat representing Texas and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, on Monday night knelt on the House floor to stand in solidarity with the men of the NFL.
“We simply ask for the dignity and respect to not call our mothers a son of a b,” Jackson Lee said, adding, “I refuse to accept that as a standard of leadership for the highest office in the world.”
President Donald Trump on Friday at an Alabama rally referred to any player participating in the protest as a “son of a bitch.”
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!'”
Jackson Lee rejected Trump’s notion that the men are doing something wrong.
“We in the Congressional Black Caucus have always stood for what is right,” she said. “There is no basis in the First Amendment that says that you cannot kneel on the national anthem or in front of the flag.”
“You tell me which of those children’s mothers are a son of a b. That is racism. You cannot deny it, you cannot run for it, and I kneel in honor of them.”
At this point, Jackson Lee knelt right there on the House floor:
“I kneel in front of the flag and on this floor. I kneel in honor of the First Amendment. I kneel because the flag is a symbol for freedom. I kneel because I’m gonna stand against racism. I kneel because I will stand with those young men and I’ll stand with our soldiers and I’ll stand with America, because I kneel.”
Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem last year to draw attention to national oppression against Blacks. Debate sparked as to whether this decision played a role in the fact that Kaepernick now remains unsigned.
But this year has seen many players following Kaepernick’s lead. On Sunday, over 200 players representing all 28 NFL teams either sat or knelt during the national anthem prior to their respective games.
In some cases, owners, coaches and other officials made statements and joined the players. However, according to Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chairman of the CBC, many of the officials’ words missed the point of what the players’ actions represented.
“While a few of these statements mentioned ‘social injustice,’ ‘racial divides,’ and ‘societal issues,’ none of them explicitly mentioned the reason why Mr. Kaepernick and many others (professional athletes, celebrities, elected officials, and citizens) are taking a knee during the National Anthem,” Richmond said in a statement.
“They are taking a knee to protest police officers who kill unarmed African Americans — men and women, adults and children, parents and grandparents — with impunity. They are taking a knee to protest a justice system that says that being Black is enough reason for a police officer to fear for his or her life.
“Those words were missing from the statements I read despite the fact that 70 percent of NFL players are Black and many of them, as well as their family and friends, have experienced racial profiling by police that leaves too many unarmed African Americans injured or dead.”
Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to double down on his comments and insist that they had nothing to do with race but were about “our Country, Flag and National Anthem.”
Richmond called on Trump to “stop acting like a child.”
“It is no surprise that athletes and others do not want to come to the White House when President Trump calls Black athletes who exercise their First Amendment right to free speech ‘a son of bitch’ and calls White men who yell racial epithets ‘very fine people.’ Perhaps President Trump did not notice that many of those White men were carrying the American flag.”
Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and also a CBC member, used the president’s favorite communication platform to show that the NFL players’ protests are not unprecedented.
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) September 25, 2017
During another period, we knelt. There is nothing wrong with kneeling down to stand up against injustice. It’s protected by the Constitution pic.twitter.com/HgxqkOsqPU
— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) September 25, 2017
Also on Monday night all of the Dallas Cowboys’ players knelt before their game against the Arizona Cardinals. Owner Jerry Jones knelt with his team as well.
Meanwhile, the hashtag #TakeAKnee generated conversation on Twitter, invoking support as well as criticism.
— Birds of a Feather (@BirdsGetStarted) September 26, 2017
Dear celebs – if you’re taking a knee to protest Trump, WRONG. #TakeAKnee is specifically about protesting racism and police brutality
— ReBecca Theodore (@FilmFatale_NYC) September 26, 2017
— VoteVets (@votevets) September 24, 2017
— ACLU (@ACLU) September 24, 2017
— Dan Bongino (@dbongino) September 26, 2017
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) September 26, 2017
I’m a combat veteran. If you think I served so people can take a knee during the anthem to protest injustice… you’d be right #takeaknee
— Jason Faler (@jasonfaler) September 25, 2017
People who are unsettled about #TakeAKnee don’t want unity, they want the absence of conflict. Not the same thing.
— Occam’s Razor (@occamsrazor45) September 26, 2017
Sarah sanders thinking NFL players are “protesting the flag” is like thinking Rosa Parks was protesting public transportation #TakeAKnee
— Tiana Hermosa (@TianaHermosa) September 26, 2017