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Subject: Want to protest Trump? Disrespecting the flag is a disgraceful way to
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Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2017 15:19:34 -0700
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Forward Article
Marc Thiessen: Want to protest Trump? Disrespecting the flag is a 
disgraceful way to do it
Marc Thiessen By Marc Thiessen,	Fox News

Showdown over anthem protests: NFL ratings taking a hit?
Editor's Note: The following column first appeared in The
Washington Post.

This weekend, the more than 100 NFL players who refused to stand during 
the national anthem were met with boos from crowds in stadiums across 
America — and deservedly so.

Playing in London, Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars players 
wouldn’t stand for the U.S. national anthem but did for “God Save the 
Queen” in the very country we fought to win our independence.

Worse, the players held their disgraceful protest on National Gold Star 
Mother’s Day, the day our country honors mothers who have lost children 
in war. A Gold Star mother whose son died in Afghanistan told CNN last 
year that when she first saw players taking a knee, “my heart kind of 
stopped and I lost my breath because the flag that I see is the flag 
that draped my son’s casket.” Imagine what she and other Gold Star 
mothers felt seeing 100 players do the same on the very day our country 
set aside to thank them.

Way to go, NFL.

In Pittsburgh, only one player — Alejandro Villanueva — a former Army 
Ranger who lost brothers in arms fighting under that flag — came out of 
the locker room to stand for the anthem. He was criticized for doing so 
by his coach. The fans’ response? Sales of Villanueva jerseys skyrocketed.

What these players don’t seem to understand is that Americans gave their 
lives so that they could have the freedom to play a kids’ game for a 
living. When players disrespect the flag, they disrespect that 
sacrifice. And it would not matter if they had done so to protest Donald 
Trump or Barack Obama — their actions would be equally offensive. If NFL 
players want to protest the president, they have plenty of other ways. 
Attend a rally. Speak out on Twitter. Tell the media after the game, “I 
stood up for America but I stand against Donald Trump.” But don’t show 
contempt for the flag.

Were President Trump’s comments urging owners to fire players who 
refused to stand incendiary? Sure. Were they politically calculated? No 
doubt. But that does not change the fact that he is right. And he did 
not start this fight. Colin Kaepernick and a handful of players did. 
Moreover, Trump is not the first president to speak out against 
disrespect for the flag. In 1988, Republican George H.W. Bush excoriated 
his Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, for vetoing a bill requiring 
Massachusetts teachers to lead their students in the Pledge of 
Allegiance. As president he proposed a constitutional amendment to 
outlaw desecration of the flag.

Yes, athletes do have a constitutional right to engage in speech that is 
offensive to millions of Americans. But the First Amendment does not 
protect them from the consequences of their offensive speech. There is 
no constitutional right to play professional football. If an NFL player 
stood on the sidelines and hurled racial epithets, his speech would be 
protected by the First Amendment. He would also be fired.

The NFL’s game operations manual says that “all players must be on the 
sideline for the National Anthem” and must “stand at attention, face the 
flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking” or face 
discipline “such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft 
choice(s).” The league regularly penalizes players for dancing in the 
end zone, but it allows players to violate the rules regarding the 
national anthem with impunity.

The NFL is also selective when it comes to the kind of speech it 
protects. Last September, the Dallas Cowboys asked for permission to 
wear helmet stickers in honor of police officers massacred in Dallas 
earlier last year. The league refused. So the NFL will not allow players 
to express their support for police with a tiny helmet decal, but it 
lets them disrespect the flag while distorting the work of police 
officers across the country?

The players’ behavior is hurting the league. NFL viewership is at its 
lowest point since 1998, and ESPN reports that “national anthem protests 
were the top reason that NFL fans watched fewer games last season, 
according to a new survey released by J.D. Power.” Indeed, “Sunday Night 
Football” had its worst ratings of the season this weekend, as millions 
of Americans turned off their sets in disgust.

If the NFL won’t stop its players from disrespecting the flag, then 
maybe Congress should take a second look at some of the federal benefits 
the NFL enjoys. For example, the NFL gets a special antitrust exemption 
in U.S. law. Democrats in Congress have already been debating whether 
the league should be stripped of this exemption because of its weak 
response to domestic violence allegations against players. Perhaps 
Republicans angry over anthem protests will now be willing to join them? 
And this might also be a good time for some public hearings into the 
NFL’s efforts to interfere with concussion research at the National 
Institutes of Health.

Last year, National Hockey League coach John Tortorella declared, “If 
any of my players sit on the bench for the national anthem, they will 
sit there the rest of the game.”

Hey, NFL, take a cue from the NHL. Every coach and owner should tell his 
players the same.

Marc Thiessen is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute 
(AEI). Thiessen served as chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush 
and to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.