OPINION: Burning NFL gear in protest: It just makes no sense

Opinion cartoon by Jennifer King

Kalyn Johnson


At the tail end of September, die-hard American patriots across the country doused their NFL gear in gasoline, lit their matches while they talked a big game about how football players should stay out of politics and then ignited hundreds of dollars worth of NFL gear on fire. They are making a statement to the NFL that they will not stand for injustices done against the American flag and the people who care about it. Their jersey and hat burning represent their faithfulness to the United States and their American spirit.

Keeping this simple, NFL players are not taking a knee in protest of the flag, or at the fact that thousands of women and men have put their lives on the line and continue to put their lives on the line to protect the U.S. That is only surface level. They’re doing this in protest of a president who refuses to look beyond the American spirit and see the American struggle.

When the president’s response to NFL players taking a knee is stronger than white supremacists running rampant in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, there is a problem with our president’s priorities. There is a problem when the president believes players should be fired for taking a knee or exercising their First Amendment right.

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts states that “to engage in symbolic speech” is relevant and should be taken into account as we think about free speech. If some of us are confused, the U.S. Courts cites an example as “burning the flag in protest.” Americans can hypothetically burn flags if they see fit.

Taking a knee is an act of symbolic speech. Women and men across decades have laid down their lives so that these players can kneel. But let it be known that they are not kneeling to disrespect the many Americans that died for our rights. They are kneeling because of the lack of response to police brutality. President Trump’s failure to explicitly denounce white supremacists, while at the same time calling NFL players “sons of bitches” at his rallies, justifies the actions of these players.

I’ve found that the individuals burning NFL gear are upset that the players are disrespecting the flag and the Constitution. I argue against that. These players are upholding a right, the first right, that we have as American citizens. With all due respect to those who serve in the armed forces, every American has the right to free speech, and it will be exercised whether fans decide to burn gear they paid for or not. In any case, this makes absolutely no sense.

There are articles and videos of Americans who are burning items they paid for in protest to players taking a knee. The act of burning something they paid money for befuddles me when they could have easily posted the items on eBay and got around the same amount of money back for the items. I do not understand their anger when they refuse to recognize kneeling as an act of peaceful protest that does no harm to players or fans when their NFL gear burning does nothing but burn a couple hundred dollar deep hole in their pockets.