Tennessee Politicians Ask State Colleges To Forbid Student-Athletes From Kneeling During The National Anthem

from the let's-just-keep-setting-civil-rights-back dept

Is it too late to force Tennessee to secede from the Union and become some sort of free-floating non-nation we can freely raid to shore up our non-wartime stockpiles of tobacco and country music?

To be fair, I’ll list Tennessee’s positives first. Within the last year, a court struck down a law that forbade the use of entertaining hyperbole by political candidates, and legislators finally passed an anti-SLAPP law with teeth — the latter of which should head off bullshit like someone suing a reporter for things someone else said.

On the other hand, legislators continue to ignore its position as a backwater state in terms of internet access. And legislators are still doing extremely stupid things, like asking federal legislators to bypass the First Amendment and Supreme Court precedent to jail people for burning the flag.

Here’s the latest broadside against constitutional rights and common sense, via pretty much every member of Tennessee’s Republican leadership. Let’s go direct to the source of this hideousness, who provides the question this legislative bullshit begs:

If you can’t see the tweet, Tennessee-located First Amendment warrior Daniel Horwitz asks:

“Hey Alexa, how do you lose judgment on the pleadings?”

Here’s what Tennessee Republicans are demanding [PDF]:

In light of recent news reports, we want to address the issue of our student athletes kneeling during the National Anthem prior to sports competitions. The National Anthem is a symbol of pride for America. It lifts our spirits toward the ideals upon which our great country was founded: that all are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Written during the Battle of Baltimore, the National Anthem represents not only the freedoms we enjoy as Americans but the ultimate sacrifice paid by many in order for us to enjoy those freedoms.

One of those “freedoms” would be the freedom to criticize their government, their nation, the things it stands for, etc. But whatever.

During athletic competitions, our student athletes represent not only themselves, but also our universities and all the citizens of this state, many of whom view this form of protest as offensive and disrespectful the very thing our National Anthem represents.

Shorter Tennessee reps: we will allow the hecklers to veto this freedom.

While we recognize our student athletes may express their own views on a variety of issues in their personal time, we do not condone any form of protest that could be viewed as disrespectful to our nation or flag while they are representing our state universities. When they don the jersey of a Tennessee university, they step out of their personal roles and into the roles of an ambassador for our state. We expect all those who walk onto the field of play to show respect for our National Anthem.

This is an expectation you can’t demand. Even if they refuse to kneel, you can’t make them “respect” the National Anthem. Respect is earned. It can’t be mandated.

To address this issue, we encourage each of you to adopt policies within your respective athletic departments to prohibit any such actions moving forward. We view this as a teachable moment in which administrators may listen to concem from students but also exercise leadership in stating unequivocally what the National Anthem means to this nation and explain proper times, places, and manners for expressing protest. While we work together to make Tennessee a better place for all our citizens, let’s not focus on what divides us but on what unites us which is being an American.

Ah. A “teachable moment.” In this context, it means “teaching” students who are upset with the status quo to suck it up and get it up any time the flag appears and its theme music starts playing. It means ignoring responses that don’t align with Team USA jingoism in order to “unite” everyone under the state Republicans’ idea of what’s acceptable behavior by student-athletes.

And it’s clear that any time people like this refer to “divisiveness,” they’re only concerned that people don’t share their views, rather than seeking a way to engage honestly with people whose viewpoints differ from theirs. The nation may be divided, but it can only be united under this plan, which would force everyone to revere the flag the way these ass-hats would prefer they do.

Nice work, reps. How did you say you like your mockery? Relentless? Good. Let the shit hit your fans, you insufferable losers.

That being said, this won’t necessarily be an easy thing to prevent. The government stepping in to tell student-athletes how they can behave is on the wrong side of the Constitution, considering these universities are publicly funded.

On the other hand, courts have given some leeway to schools to add additional rights restrictions to extracurricular activities, which means they may be allowed to tell students how to behave during sportsball games, even if they can’t restrict their speech elsewhere. Sports participation is voluntary and generally comes with strings attached.

But Horwitz isn’t wrong. This certainly won’t be an easy case for the government to win if this flag-molesting, masturbatorial fantasy becomes a reality. Criticism of the government tends to receive the most First Amendment protection and taking a knee during the anthem cannot possibly be seen as anything other than criticism.

Of course, the universities are free to politely decline this ridiculous request. But it would be so much better if they’d send a message of their own stating that they respect their students’ rights far more than they respect pandering to the worst aspect of state politicians’ voter bases.

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Comments on “Tennessee Politicians Ask State Colleges To Forbid Student-Athletes From Kneeling During The National Anthem”

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51 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Reminder: Compulsory patriotism isn’t patriotism.

Patriotism is someone asking if, and why, they need to do things like recite a pledge of allegiance or stand for/sing a national anthem. The most patriotic citizens are those who question the decisions of those in power — including the decisions with which they agree.

If you love something, you shouldn’t have to constantly say how much you love it or feel pressured into doing so. But to some people, symbols of patriotism matter more than actual love of the country. They don’t believe actual love includes the ability to criticize it, to call attention to ways we can make it better, to point out how the very symbols we use for our country routinely leave people in the dust. A true patriot regards themselves as a defender of individual rights against presumed interference by the federal government. Anyone who tries to compel patriotism from others is a bootlicker.

Those who risk their livelihoods and their lives to express dissent will teach you more about patriotism than will those who try to make you feel like not standing for the anthem is equal to treason. The bootlicker believes in “my country, right or wrong”; the patriot extends that belief: “If right, to be kept right; if wrong, to be set right.”

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Jojo (profile) says:

Conservatives: We are defenders of freedom of expression.
Also Conservative: We want to get rid of Section 230 because it’s mean to our free speech.
Also Also Conservatives: No kneeling! You can’t express rebellion you fucking normies! Reeeeeeeeeeee!

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Also Conservatives: I am allowed to protest at my place of work during working hours and while I am on duty, it is my right. But not those anti-American football players – nope, they must do as they are told and we do not have to pay those college players either.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'Think of the freedoms!' cried the people attacking them

The National Anthem is a symbol of pride for America. It lifts our spirits toward the ideals upon which our great country was founded: that all are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And people are kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest because those ideals aren’t being upheld, all are not being treated equally with their rights and even lives given different weight depending on skin tone and wealth.

Written during the Battle of Baltimore, the National Anthem represents not only the freedoms we enjoy as Americans but the ultimate sacrifice paid by many in order for us to enjoy those freedoms.

I’m sure the people who made those sacrifices would be thrilled to be used as props by cowards to justify cracking down on people making use of those freedoms in a way that those in authority don’t like, because as every good american citizen knows the country was founded upon the idea that you absolutely never protest against wrongdoing by those in charge.

During athletic competitions, our student athletes represent not only themselves, but also our universities and all the citizens of this state, many of whom view this form of protest as offensive and disrespectful the very thing our National Anthem represents.

Deal with it you thin-skinned hypocrites. You think you’re offended that people aren’t showing the ‘proper’ respect towards the national anthem, imagine how ‘offended’ the people protesting like that are that they’re willing to do something that’ll get you lot throwing tantrums and dragging their names through the mud for it. Don’t like it then don’t watch it, or do something about the reason they’re protesting.

While we recognize our student athletes may express their own views on a variety of issues in their personal time, we do not condone any form of protest that could be viewed as disrespectful to our nation or flag while they are representing our state universities.

If showing disrespect to the nation or flag is to be seen as unacceptable then it seems that every last person who signed that letter needs to resign in shame(assuming they’re capable of feeling such anyway) immediately, because attacking free speech like that show far more contempt towards both than any amount of people kneeling.

We expect all those who walk onto the field of play to show respect for our National Anthem.

Respect is earned, demanding it merely shows that it’s not deserved and makes clear that the goal isn’t respect but obedience and subservience, which again kinda goes against the whole ‘people died for the freedoms we enjoy!’ argument.

We view this as a teachable moment in which administrators may listen to concem from students but also exercise leadership in stating unequivocally what the National Anthem means to this nation and explain proper times, places, and manners for expressing protest.

I mean, they’re partially right, this will be a teachable moment the only question is what lesson will be learned. Will it be ‘obedience and subservience towards authority are what it means to be american’ or ‘this is what our school thinks about anti-first amendment goons who have no business in government’?

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sumgai (profile) says:

Re: 'Think of the freedoms!' cried the people attacking them

Don’t like it then don’t watch it, or do something about the reason they’re protesting.

THIS!!!!

IOW, treat the cause, not the symptom. And while you legislators are busy pissing and moaning, be damned glad that said kneeling protesters aren’t taking a cue from Trump’s book of "How To Protest". If you keep ignoring their reasons for protesting, it won’t be long before they do start reading that book, and oh boy, I’m gonna start buying shares in both Excedrin and Phillips’ Milk Of Magnesia.

TaboToka (profile) says:

Re: 'Think of the freedoms!' cried the people attacking them

During athletic competitions, our student athletes represent not only themselves, but also our universities and all the citizens of this state, many of whom view this form of protest as offensive and disrespectful the very thing our National Anthem represents.

The ironymeter is going to asplode. Kaepernick knelt because origionally he sat and then decide to kneel as a way of showing respect.

Kaepernick explained that he was ‘not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour’.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'Think of the freedoms!' cried the people attacking them

"The ironymeter is going to asplode. Kaepernick knelt because origionally he sat and then decide to kneel as a way of showing respect"

The issue is that he dared to protest at all. How he chose to do it is irrelevant to the people who would rather that black people not protest their treatment. This whole issue just proves that there is no method of protest that would have been acceptable to these people. Also:

"many of whom view this form of protest as offensive and disrespectful the very thing our National Anthem represents."

If people are offended that people are choosing to use their freedom of speech in the most minimal and least intrusive way possible to protest Americans being murdered by police, and it’s the protest and not the murders that is what is offending them, they might not be understanding what the anthem is meant to represent.

Also, in the "home of the brave", why are the people most obsessed with its symbolism such whimpering cowards? That always seems very strange.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Baron von Robber says:

Re: Re:

The other day, I saw soldiers kneeling for their fallen soldier!! The audacity!!

(Hint: Kaepernick used to sit on the bench in protest. Then a teammate who was a Green Beret, advised him to take a knee instead which was much more respectful. Colin took the advice, but melting still occurs for the very very fragile souls of snowflakes.)

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

It is nice to see that even in the middle of a pandemic they are still beating the jingoistic drum to keep the base riled up & not asking why the hell the state is focusing on this stupid bullshit instead of solving any actual real problems.

that all are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness unless we dislike how you use your rights in which case we veto your right to have any rights we haven’t allowed you.

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sumgai (profile) says:

I am not in love with this country. After all, it is only a geographical place on the planet where I happen to live – I could live almost anywhere, geographically speaking.

However, I am enthralled with the ideology of this particular country. Freedoms are only a part of that, but a big part nonetheless. I need not go into the why’s and wherefore’s, but suffice it to say that I’m a veteran, and as such, I’d like to offer up the followoing quote:

A veteran is a person who at one time wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America, for "any amount up to and including my life". That is honor, and sadly, too many Americans today don’t understand that concept.

Where the original quotation used the word "honor", I happen to think that this is also about as pure a definition of patriotism as one can find, and sadly, far too many Americans take that blank check and wipe their butts with it. As noted above, some of us vets don’t exactly fit the definition of "happy camper". I hope I’ve given some of you a better understanding as to why that is so.

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

For those not in the know…..

The military uses a numbering system to denote occupational specialties. 11B stands for Basic Infantryman. In full, 11B is always suffixed with 10, 20 or greater to denote the level of training and demonstrated skill.

TaboToka sounds like he might’ve been there and done that, I admit that my specialty kept me away from that line of work.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"After all, it is only a geographical place on the planet where I happen to live"

I’ve never understood nationalism. You don’t choose where you’re born, so to swear unfailing fealty to the place where you happen to emerge, just because you did, is strange to me. I can understand it in the case of immigrants who have fought hard to make a better life for themselves, especially if you feel so strongly about it that you revoke your old citizenship and adopt that of your new country, but I don’t understand it in the case of people who have never experienced another culture.

"However, I am enthralled with the ideology of this particular country. Freedoms are only a part of that, but a big part nonetheless"

The ideals are great, but it’s sadly common for those ideals not to be upheld. Especially when "patriots" talk about things like freedom. There’s nothing sadder to my eyes than seeing people half-kill themselves working 60+ hour weeks in jobs they hate just to have some access to healthcare from a private company that can deny or bankrupt them at a drop of a hat, then spend their free time telling me how "free" they are.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"I happen to think that this is also about as pure a definition of patriotism as one can find, and sadly, far too many Americans take that blank check and wipe their butts with it."

Unfortunately, Newspeak is the trend of the day. The loudest and most strident voices in american politics today literally claim that freedom is slavery and that outright marxist ideology is a constitutional requirement. Nationalist Socialism, as it were.

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Anonymous Coward says:

The republican opposition to kneeling during the National Anthem is supremely and hilariously ironic, in a very sad way. The kneeling was original suggested by a white veteran as a respectful way to protest during the playing of the national anthem.

I can only conclude that the real republican beef with this gesture is that it’s performed by "uppity niggers" who "don’t know their place". (I know the language is offensive, but I honestly believe this is what at least some angered republicans are thinking and I can’t fully express this without this language).

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Anonymous Coward says:

When they don the jersey of a Tennessee university, they step out of their personal roles and into the roles of an ambassador for our state.

And I’m sure they enjoy the honorarium that comes with that title. Oh, wait, they’re college athletes, forbidden on pain of expulsion from the team, from getting paid to compete.

"The Honor of it", you say? So the teams are revenue neutral for the colleges? Really?

Me, I think you’re just projecting.

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Ceyarrecks (profile) says:

Nothing New, eh?

To quote:

"and get it up any time the flag appears and its theme music starts playing."

As the GOP is well known to be Modern Day Pharisees{those that uphold Religion just with their mouths, while instituting >1k EXTRA steps, to protect only their positions of "power"}, now they regress even further to be like Nebuchadnezzar demanding that their GOP Idol be worshiped (or get thrown in a flaming furnace, I guess, is GOP’s next step for those whom refuse, eh?)

Nothing new under the Sun indeed.

p.s. SPOILER ALERT: it is recalled what happened to the ancient nation of Israel with all of its Pharisaical corruption,… riiiiight?

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From the secret bat cages at Wuhan lab... says:

With first paragraph, you express desire to restrict speech!

Is it too late to force Tennessee to secede from the Union and become some sort of free-floating non-nation we can freely raid to shore up our non-wartime stockpiles of tobacco and country music?

Of an entire state by "FORCE" unless comply with YOUR notions!

Irony and Hypocrisy aren’t strong enough for just blithely proposing do to an entire US state what you claim to be against that state doing in a specific small way.

You are totally without self-awareness.

Techdirt is only for "free speech" it approves of.

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From the secret bat cages at Wuhan lab... says:

Re: With first paragraph, you express desire to restrict speech!

By the way: long ago I stated Maz should restrict fanboy speech

to civil, and with my ally AdSense FORCED it on Techdirt! — Yes, you kids now can’t use the vile words you want to express complete disagreement with that, because if do you risk AdSense again with-holding payments from a "dangerous and derogatory" site!

Had you merely set common civility as the rule when I suggested 11 years ago, Techdirt might not be so insignificant now.

So I’ve WON yet another point, kids.

You’ve not grasped that the corporate control of speech that you long advocated applies to you too!

No more will Timothy Geigner, aka Dark Helmet, target me out of the blue with unprovoked racist textual assaults such as this:

"There are white people, and then there are ignorant motherfuckers like you…."

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110621/16071614792/misconceptions-free-abound-why-do-brains-stop-zero.shtml#c1869

Heh, heh. Go on, "prove" to me that you CAN write that!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

So after a decade of being offended that people can see you being insulted, your genius strategy is to draw more attention to you getting insulted.

Well, if that’s what you want. There are white people, and then there are ignorant motherfuckers like you.

out of the blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: With first paragraph, you express desire to restrict spe

By the way: long ago I stated Maz should restrict fanboy speech
to civil, and with my ally AdSense FORCED it on Techdirt! — Yes, you kids now can’t use the vile words you want to express complete disagreement with that, because if do you risk AdSense again with-holding payments from a "dangerous and derogatory" site!

Actually, neither the rules of discourse here nor the discourse itself have changed. Yes, AdSense did threaten to/did pull ads from articles with, shall we say for the sake of argument, less-than-civil comments, but no actual changes to the moderation policies nor the comments themselves actually occurred because of that. If I wanted to call you a fuckwit Nazi terrorist pedophile motherfucker or something and say that you’re better off killing yourself, the repercussions I would get if I did so now would be no different than if I had before that whole thing happened. Now, I would never do that, and I wouldn’t say that there’d be no consequences, but the fact is that those consequences would have nothing to do with that event.

You’ve not grasped that the corporate control of speech that you long advocated applies to you too!

Actually, yes we do. We just don’t whine about it or say that the law should be changed to stop it or claim that the law doesn’t protect it or anything like that.

Google has, and should have, every legal right to not put ads on articles if they or their comments sections are disagreeable to them or not put ads on this site at all if they don’t want to. They may threaten or actually use that power to put pressure on Techdirt to remove offending content, and that’s perfectly legal and should be outside of certain circumstances not at all relevant here. Techdirt can choose to cave, negotiate, push back, and/or find an alternative source of revenue, like soliciting and displaying ads without AdSense. What Google cannot do is moderate content on this site directly; only Techdirt is legally free to directly moderate (or not moderate) the actual content on this site as it wishes.

We are all well aware of these facts and their potential consequences.

No more will Timothy Geigner, aka Dark Helmet, target me out of the blue with unprovoked racist textual assaults such as this:

"There are white people, and then there are ignorant motherfuckers like you…."

1) That was, like, a decade ago. It was also an isolated case that has never repeated itself at all. Why do you still insist on whining about it? Just let it go already. You’re embarrassing yourself.

2) As was explained to you then and many times since then, that was not actually a statement referring to you. Geigner was just spamming quotes from Obama’s book in response to you repeating the same nonsense ad nauseum. They were not intended to have any actual meaning whatsoever. They were chosen at random, and most of them made no sense as an actual response to what was said before. That you found one of them offensive and misinterpreted it as referring to you is irrelevant and was pure chance.

3) I’m not sure that it is racist, but not having read the context of that in the actual book it was pulled from, it’s hard for me to say for sure either way.

Heh, heh. Go on, "prove" to me that you CAN write that!

Okay. Fine. It’s not something I’d normally say, but you did literally ask for this:

There are white people, and then there are ignorant motherfuckers like you.

There. I wrote it. So what?

In fact, you kinda undermined your own point by writing it yourself. You may claim that you were just quoting someone else, but so was Geigner at the time.

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