NFL vs. Trump: I fought for these rights too

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, September 27th, 2017 at 5:15 PM

Almost a year ago to the day, I wrote an article about Colin Kaepernick and his protesting of police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem. Then, as now, I supported his protest, however something was different this past weekend in the NFL. That difference was a tweet published from the personal account of Donald Trump, the president of the United States of America.

With those two tweets, the president initiated a chain reaction throughout the NFL, sparking an outpouring of protests in some form or another. Some teams locked arms with their owners in a show of unity. Other teams did not take the field until after the anthem was played. Other teams had numerous players take a knee while the anthem played.

There are three things that are wholly sacred to most veterans and in turn, most Americans themselves: the American flag, the national anthem and the rights they represent. Being a veteran of the Iraq war, I am all too familiar with the price that is paid in ensuring these rights. I have more friends in the ground than above that answered the nation’s call to defend these rights. I have been in Walter Reed Army Hospital in D.C. where I saw firsthand how broken and battered many of our nation’s fine young men and women returned from Afghanistan and Iraq. I have served as a member of far too many honor guards where I witnessed the family members of the veterans receive a folded flag.

I can see how difficult it is for some Americans and veterans to watch NFL on Sunday and see players on their favorite team protest or show anything but respect for the flag and the anthem before the game begins.

However, I cannot in good conscience pretend to dictate when and how American citizens choose to exercise these rights. Just as much as it pains me to see these athletic goliaths take a knee to signify that something is wrong with our country, I whole heartedly believe they have the right to do so.

I cannot possibly fathom what it is like, living in those communities that they are trying to give a voice to. I understand that if I were to meet even the players from my beloved Cleveland Browns on the street in their plain clothes, I may not be able to recognize any of them. I see why they must “strike while the iron is hot” and protest when all eyes are on them and when they have the attention of the total nation.

I believe, however, that this was more in response to the president telling them exactly how and when to exercise their rights.

To dictate when and how American citizens exercise their rights tears at the very core of which this nation was founded. Without free speech and peaceful protest, we cannot grow as a nation. 

George Schmidt can be reached at


Tags: voices, opinion, nfl

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