This past weekend saw NFL players taking a knee or not coming out for the Star Spangled Banner during football games, and both Left and Right went ballistic. The Left cried “free speech” (along with “Trump is a racist/sexist/homophobe/islamophobe/phobe-du-joir), and the Right cried “disrespect.” So, where does your favorite free speech loving, ruggedly handsome independent blogger stand on kneeling?
To put it mildly and in the form of a Facebook relationship status, it’s complicated.
Both sides of this controversy have good points, and both are completely wrong. (Told ya it was complicated.) The football players who decided to protest have a right to express themselves in the ways they did. You may not agree with why they were protesting, but it’s not even up for debate: they have the right to protest.
The people saying their protest was disrespectful to America, the flag, and our fighting men and women are correct. I see it as only slightly less offensive than Michael Moore’s eating habits. But free speech isn’t limited to speech we like. If we limit free speech only to speech we like, we could be looking at a situation where only a handful of people (probably people who post cute dog and cat pictures on the Internet) would be allowed to speak, and even they would be able to be silenced with a single complaint.
So, where exactly do I stand? In favor of free speech for the protesters, and the protesters of the protesters. In a situation like this, I will always opt for whatever guarantees the maximum amount of freedom for the maximum number of people because the alternative sucks. When you put a lot of power in the hands of only a few, abuse occurs. Case in point: the IRS under Lois Lerner. Or the IRS in general.
But I do hope the protesters are open to having their actions criticized in the name of the same free speech they cloak themselves in when it suits their needs. Otherwise, their concern for free speech/protest would look rather…superficial.