By Brendan Klein
[email protected]

Once again the United States is trying to tackle the limits of free speech in the arena of professional sports.

This is not a new game that we are playing. Freedom of speech has been tested and tried throughout our country’s history, especially these last few months. The typical battle lines are drawn over whether kneeling or protesting the national anthem is disrespectful to our country and the thousands of servicemen and women who serve, or if it is a peaceful expression of constitutional rights.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, there has to be a common consensus that no punishment should be extracted upon the players who engage in their protest.

As a former editor of The Record who has received articles from all spectrums of thought, I take the First Amendment of our Constitution very seriously.  Censorship limits our understanding of this world and our ability to grow in thought and knowledge. People must be given a choice to reject or accept what they see or hear. Freedom must be at the root of our decisions.

That is why President Trump’s call to NFL executives to fire any person who protests goes against our most sacred amendment. He asks for the conversation to be stifled. He wants to undermine our rights. This is a dangerous order since it allows those in power to set the narrative for the nation. It can be boiled down in its simplicity to: if you don’t do exactly what I want, you’re fired. This means you, myself and everyone around us would not be able to speak and act freely.

We would be forced to think a certain way for fear of punishment. This rule applies to all spectrums of ideology. I would have no right to fire someone
because they voted for Clinton or Trump, or disagreed with me on a policy issue. This is a protection that must extend to everyone, not just those who protest the
national anthem.

If a player is going to get fired, it should be because they miss too many tackles or drop too many balls, not because they go on one knee for two minutes. We have the right to disagree with the player’s actions or to defend them. This is what conversations should revolve around. But the punishment for their actions is unconstitutional and goes against everything our country stands for.

We have had men and women die to protect freedom around the world. We fought Nazis who silenced any opposition. We fought Communists who forced their compatriots to recite party doctrine. If there is anything that we should not
tolerate in this country, it should be someone who tries to force us what to think, which is why our rights surmount our symbols.

You may disagree with the method of protest, the cause or the person, but we cannot disagree on the outcome. Defending constitutional rights is what the generations of Americans did before us and it is what we must do today. We must not punish people for expressing their free opinions or else face a truly oppressed society that disrespects the efforts of everyone before us who fought to protect our freedom.

This is the opinion of Brendan Klein, SJU junior