The first amendment of the Constitution declares, essentially, that no individual, institution, or any laws made by individuals or institutions may abridge a citizen’s right to free speech.
Whether or not that applies to the NFL, I believe that it should, especially, when kneeling for the national anthem is a way for certain players to express their feelings and opinions towards social injustices. This expression of opinion hasn’t been taken well by all, for example, ex-49er Colin Kaepernick, who knelt for the anthem originally in August of 2016, has yet to find another quarterback job. Despite several teams’ needs at QB, owners reportedly feel like he is a liability due to the controversial press he brings himself and his respective team. Kaepernick has since been joined in protest by many athletes, including Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, and kneeling for the anthem has become a hot topic of discussion around the league.
Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter addressed this issue at a team meeting Tuesday, where he said “My personal view is, I’ll be standing on the 50-yard line with my hand over my heart… That’s what I believe in. We’ve got plenty of guys who believe in that, but we’re not all the same. We’re not all the same. We don’t all come from the same place. We don’t all have the same background. We have to respect every man’s opinion.”
This speech was well taken by the Bucs players, as Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was quoted in saying “The thing I like about Dirk is he lets everybody be individuals. He lets you be you. And he opened for discussion, ‘Hey, if anybody has an opinion, let’s talk about it.’ And that’s the problem with society now. Everybody wants to get mad and fight. Immediately, everybody wants to fight. Nobody wants to talk about the situation, no more because you don’t even know why a person thinks the way they think or feels the way they feel and they know how you feel. We just don’t have conversations and talk anymore as a society and that’s the problem, man.”
Both Koetter and McCoy show that they care about freedom of expression of opinion over the content of the opinion, which is a very noble stance. After all, this country was founded to be a place where all opinions could be expressed regardless of topic, and hopefully, the rest of the league starts to feel the same way in order to come together and become stronger as a whole.