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Fecteau: Trump vs. the NFL

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


President Donald J. Trump always had a problem with optics when it came to race relations. However, his behavior in Alabama was beyond the pale even for him. This past weekend he called any NFL player – specifically Colin Kaepernick — who kneeled during the national anthem ‘sons of bitches’ who should be fired. Now, Mr. Trump opened up a can of worms with other NFL players and affiliates protesting by kneeling and locking arms during the national anthem.

Mr. Trump is in no position to criticize anyone’s freedom of speech, especially with his controversial and colorful history. This is the very individual who criticized a federal judge, Mr. Gonzalo Curiel, for his Mexican heritage (a comment even U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan called racist). This is the same Mr. Trump that talked about a Muslim Ban during his presidential campaign to an applauding crowd of predominantly white, raucous individuals, and the infamous Mr. Trump that is intent on building a wall to keep the Mexicans out.

I would like to have seen this level of condemnation from Mr. Trump when Nazis were violently protesting in Charlottesville. Mr. Trump forcefully censures those that peacefully protest by kneeling, but had to be prodded by Congress into even making a written statement condemning Nazis. Condemning Nazis should be the easiest part of his job!   

These specific NFL players are arguably honoring our country and doing a public service; standing up for those that feel the system is stacked against them. These peaceful NFL protests are highlighting an injustice, not through violent means (like in Charlottesville), but by a simple, yet powerfully humbling gesture —  kneeling.

We need to work together to look for real solutions and stop beating up (cough, Mr. Trump, cough) on those that exercise their rights to shed light on pervasive racial inequality in a peaceful way. You may disagree with the protestors, but at least they are trying to send a message through non-violent means. This is what our flag truly embodies — freedom; the freedom to disagree, but more importantly, the freedom to protest, and freedom to stand up (or kneel) for your beliefs.


Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) is a Master of Public Administration candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and an Iraq War veteran. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewFecteau


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