I must rise to respectfully object to the pieces by David and Jay on kneeling. They argue that Trump’s crude exhortation to stand during the National Anthem makes the kneelers understandable (David) or sympathetic (Jay). As Jay argues, Trump’s riff changed everything. Kneeling to protest police brutality is a bad idea, but kneeling to give “a big middle finger,” as Jay puts it, to the president of the United States is just fine.
If your objection to kneeling is merely situational, I would think kneeling to address alleged systemic racism would be a more worthy cause than simply doing it to spite Trump. But put that aside, because I don’t think disrespecting the flag is warranted in either circumstance, or any foreseeable circumstances. I understand NFL players feel offended, but there are all sorts of ways to hit back at Trump and vindicate your free speech that don’t involve slighting the flag — they can mock and attack Trump on Twitter, call him a bum, hold press conferences, give interviews, kneel before the Anthem or after the Anthem, or after touchdowns, or really any time they want except during the Anthem.
What’s the limiting principle, by the way, on the do-the-opposite-of-Trump view? What if Trump said, “I hate those dirty anti-fa bastards who, if it were up to me, would be thrown into jail for burning the American flag?” Would we turn around and say burning the flag is a great way for leftists to stick it to the Man?
Jay quotes John Kelly at the end of his piece. I don’t like arguments from authority, but as Jay points out, Kelly has as much authority as anyone given his family’s sacrifices for this country. Here’s what he says about the National Anthem: “I believe every American, when the National Anthem is played, should cover their hearts and think about all the men and women who have been maimed and killed. Every American should stand up and think for three lousy minutes.”
Where I depart from my colleagues is that I don’t think there’s anything that anyone, even Donald Trump, could say that would make Kelly wrong about that.