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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Filed Under: 1st amendment, civil rights, free speech, grandstanding politicians, kneeling, protests, sports, students, tennessee


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  1. icon
    TaboToka (profile), 25 Feb 2021 @ 4:38pm

    Re: Nothing screams freedom like forced patriotism!

    The Bellamy Salute is more appropriate. And patriotic.


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