An Indiana State Rep’s Indecent Proposal to Get Colts Players to Stop Taking a Knee

On Sept. 24, Milo Smith took his daughter to an Indianapolis Colts’ game against the Cleveland Browns. Though the Colts won that day — a tragically rare occurrence this year — Smith left the game offended. During the national anthem, a group of players on both teams took a knee in reaction to President Trump’s comments two days earlier, where he called protesting players sons of bitches who should be fired by team ownership.

"To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it’s not respecting the national anthem or our country,” Smith told the Indianapolis Star newspaper. “Our government isn’t perfect, but it's still the best country in the world and I think we need to be respectful of it."

But Smith isn’t just an ordinary Colts' fan. He’s a state representative, and he couldn’t sit idly by while the Colts players knelt during the Star-Spangled Banner. Instead, he’s promised to introduce legislation that would force the team to refund the ticket price to any fan offended by a Colts player protesting during the national anthem.

If passed, however, that law would be an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.

I, too, attended that Colts game in September with my daughter. When Colts players kneeled during the national anthem, we and many others understood them to be protesting our nation’s systemic racism that manifests in violent and soul-crushing ways. Such protests are undeniably political speech, and political speech is our most protected and important form of expression. 

But Rep. Smith doesn’t seem to get this. Instead, his proposed law is an absurd assault on the First Amendment because it tackles, if you will, political speech of the players by exerting economic pressure on their employer, the Indianapolis Colts. The First Amendment protects each of us from government controlling what we say, and it certainly protects businesses and their employees from government regulation that seeks to discourage speech based on its content.

And make no mistake, that is Rep. Smith’s intent.

Since he doesn’t like the message the players are sending with their silent protest, he wants to use the power of government to apply pressure to shut the protests down. What’s next? Regulatory fines instead of piano music for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences when actors go on too long about politics during their Oscar acceptance speeches?

The Colts are a private business. The players work for a private business. And the fans support that private business. If fans are upset, let them work it out with their team by refusing to purchase tickets or watch on TV. That is, by the way, how some of the 44 million viewers of Oscars expressed their disagreement when things got political at last year’s Oscars. According to one poll, two-thirds of Trump voters just changed the channel.

If Rep. Smith and others like him don’t like watching players peacefully protest racial injustice, then they should simply stop going to and watching Colts’ games. Government, however, should stay out of it.

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Anonymous

Flags and anthems are merely "symbols". The substance behind those symbols is our Constitutional Democratic Republic form of government that guarantees everyone's constitutional rights.

Mostly Republican and Conservative leaders have actually desecrated the "substance" that these symbols stand for:

During the so-called War on Drugs these guys desecrated the 4th Amendment's letter & spirit. After 9/11, the GOP controlled Congress and WH desecrated the rest of the Bill of the Rights. The American republic actually ended under Bush and the GOP.

Why are those that destroyed the "substance" of America's model of government get so excited about mere symbols?

Anonymous

BRILLIANT comment that goes to the heart of the matter. WORSHIP OF SYMBOLS while DESTROYING THE SUBSTANCE of our Constitution is NOT "patriotic".

joe jackson

So, a player can be disrespectful to the Flag. And you're right, that is free speech. But a fan, attending a game, who is so offended by that player's act; doesn't have the right to his/her money back, when he/she walks out? Why not? The fan likely wouldn't have bought a ticket if he/she knew it would happen.

Anonymous

During the anthem, you are supposed to be looking at the flag, not at the players. Snowflake probably wouldn't have been offended if he was respecting the flag to begin with.

I am deeply offended by stadium food prices -- should i get my money back if I decide to leave because of the outrageous cost of a beer? I am also offended when my team loses, should I get my money back then? Why not?

Anonymous

Did you read the article?? The point isn’t that he can’t be annoyed - the point is that he’s trying to push for legislation that would violate the First Amendment of our fundamental guiding law of the nation. If you think that’s ok, think about what you would think if a state rep tried to make it illegal to say anything bad about Obama, Democrats, Bernie Sanders, etc.. Are you that eager to live in a 1984-fascist state??

Anonymous

The fan can choose to ask for a refund. You can't pass laws forcing businesses to issue refunds when people 'claim" they are offended by something a fellow citizen says or does (or does not do, in this case). Especially when it comes to little nationalistic rituals that people with middle-school maturity imagine are signs of 'respect" they want to force everyone else to conform to. A real sign of respect would be for them to respect their fellow American's right to freedom of expression--but that would be mature, and they don't get that. Why is it these folks are such "snowflakes" and are so easily offended when people don't obey their little rules?

Stephen Pulliam

Perhaps the law could mandate refunds for movies and shows that I don't like. Or for church services, could I get my donation back? Ot my taxes if my government disgusts me?

Anonymous

First of all if you didn't know it was going to happen it means you were not paying attention and that is your fault not the Teams.
Every player has the right given to them by the Constitution to peacefully assemble and to speak their mind as long as the speech is not threatening or causes immediate harm. Taking a knee is a form of apeech that is protected by the First Amendment. If the Colts told their players not to do so that is their right but u til that happens the players have a right to do what they are doing. If you disagree with the message that is up to you but it does not change the fact they have a right to do it.

ACLU contributor.

To the ACLU: Keep up the good fight.

Anonymous

You are right. But then again, you, the Colts,and their fans are in Indiana. So your idiot Rep is going get his law and all the slack jaws are going to back him. You all make Kentucky look good.

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