Squandering the First Amendment is inappropriate

As tensions rise between the United States and Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump unleashed his own brand of fire and fury, not against the North Korean leader, but against the National Football League.

Trump is the commander-in-chief of the United States. He is not the commissioner of the NFL. You wouldn’t know that by his latest rant.

A tirade launched by Trump at a speech Friday in Huntsville, Alabama, called out players for protesting the National Anthem — a practice that has grown in prominence since Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest a season ago.

Trump said kneeling during the national anthem should be cause for suspension or termination. “Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!” Trump said.

He continued by mocking the NFL for their attempts to make the game of football safer. The crowd roared with applause — the kind of applause Trump couldn’t get a week ago at the United Nations.

Trump’s divisive act challenging open-mindedness backfired. His statement has galvanized the league, provoking a need for unity.

Trump urged Americans to boycott the NFL. “If you see it, even one player, leave the stadium,” Trump said. “I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave.”

“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast,” Trump tweeted. “…League should back U.S.”

For decades, brave men and women have protected our rights to freedom. As defined in our national anthem, the United States is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” For two minutes every Sunday before games, NFL athletes have the freedom to express their views.

I don’t condone kneeling during the national anthem, but taking a knee is a freedom bound by the Constitution. Squandering the First Amendment is unacceptable.

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti joined more than a dozen teams that have responded to Trump’s comments. In his statement, Bisciotti appropriately said, “We recognize our players’ influence. We respect their determination and support them 100 percent. All voices need to be heard. That’s democracy in its highest form.”

Supporting open dialogue and free speech is necessary. Providing a platform to groups who have historically had their voices suppressed is necessary.