It's been nearly three years since NFL players started protesting racial injustice during the national anthem, and people are still talking about it. This time, it's South Bend, Indiana mayor and White House hopeful, Pete Buttigieg, who offered up a pretty interesting take. Pete Buttigieg's comments on NFL kneeling protests say they're a First Amendment right he fought for while serving in the Afghanistan War.
Buttigieg, who spent time overseas during a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2014 as a part of the United States Navy Reserve, shared his support for the protests on May 23. In an interview with TMZ Sports, he said, "The way I feel about it is the flag that was on my shoulder when I served represented, among other things, our right to free speech."
"You don't have to like it, but one of the reasons we serve was to defend that right, the right of peaceful protest and the idea that we can protest what is wrong with our country," he continued.
From there, Buttigieg criticized his 2020 rival, President Donald Trump, who has called for the NFL to suspend players who don't stand for the anthem without pay. "If the president had served, maybe he'd feel a little more strongly about some of those freedoms," Buttigieg said. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on Buttigieg's remarks, but did not hear back at the time of publication. (Trump was reportedly supposed to serve in the Vietnam War but received several college deferments and one medical deferment for "bone spurs" in his heels, and Trump told ABC News in 2015 he received a "minor medical deferment for feet, for a bone spur of the foot, which was minor.") The 37-year-old then doubled down on his position, adding, "And, I get that there's a lot of strong opinions about this, but that's part of why we served."
Whether you agree or not, Buttigieg seems to have a point. The right to free speech is stamped in the Constitution, so it's easy to see how Buttigieg's service to protect that right would lead to him supporting players having the option to peacefully protest.
Besides, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who started the protests in 2016, has claimed that the protests are for an important reason that doesn't have to do with disrespecting the military or the flag. Instead, he intended the protests to stand against police brutality and racial bias. Speaking to NFL Media at the time, Kaepernick said:
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
The protests picked up steam as time went on, with several other players and even a cheerleader joining in, but they've also faced backlash. Trump, perhaps the most notable critic, has said that the protests are disrespectful to the flag, military, and the United States.
"If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem," Trump wrote in a series of September 2017 tweets. "If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
Buttigieg, for his part, appears to have totally different feelings on the subject. But, I wouldn't expect anything less when it comes to those two. To each his own, I suppose. Anyhow, I'm sure this is just one of many topics you'll see presidential hopefuls weigh in on as the 2020 campaigns move forward. Stay tuned.