This alone should cause us all to take a knee (Daily Kos)

May 25, 2018

On yesterday, the same day that the NFL announced that it would penalize players for taking a knee during the national anthem, a video surfaced showing Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown being mistreated by Milwaukee police officers.

The Milwaukee Bucks front office issued a remarkably blunt and honest statement condemning the police misconduct while voicing support for its player.

Sadly, NFL owners don't appreciate the fact that the majority of NFL players identify with Sterling Brown and what happened to him, because they, like many of us, have seen repeatedly the growing cascade of videos showing police officers across America using excessive force against unarmed African Americans.  

NFL players know that they can become the next Sterling Brown, and they have used their public platform to expose and hopefully curtail the unpleasant reality of police misconduct.

Another disturbing video that was recently made public shows former University of Toledo and NFL football player Desmond Marrow being held down on the pavement by two Henry County police officers while a third tried to choke the life out of him.

This alone should cause us all to take a knee.

NFL owners are worth billions, while well-paid NFL players risk injury and their long-term health so that millions of fans can enjoy the sport of football. Despite what players give to the game, NFL owners have decided that the grace and blessing of Donald Trump is worth more to them than the civil and human rights of their players.

They have issued an edict barring players from exercising their First Amendment right to freedom of speech during the singing of the national anthem. NFL owners have historically treated their cheerleaders like second-class citizens, demanding that they shut up and dance.

With the new edict in place, the NFL is essentially telling the players:  Shut up and play. The NFL enjoys an antitrust exemption, which has enabled it to become a billion-dollar industry through lucrative TV and radio contracts. The average NFL team is worth $2 billion today with "America's Team" worth a staggering $4.8 billion.

NFL owners should not enjoy legal protections afforded by breaks such as the antitrust exemption when they don’t protect the basic rights of their players -- rights that all of the citizens enjoy -- and that is the ability to exercise their First Amendment rights during the playing of the national anthem.

Congressman Hank Johnson represents the Fourth Congressional District of Georgia that includes parts of DeKalb, Gwinnett and Newton Counties and all of Rockdale County. Rep. Johnson serves on the Transportation & Infrastructure and Judiciary Committees. He is the top Democrat on the Judiciary subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet (IP).


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