October 17, 2017
Today’s NFL owners meeting is a watershed moment. The agenda item that would change the NFL’s rules limiting player behavior during the national anthem requires a courage stance informed by history.
As the sons of parents who were survivors of the Holocaust in Nazi occupied Poland, you are in a unique position to lead this discussion as owners of the Minnesota Vikings.
I applaud your initial response to the issue of taking a knee during the national anthem. By linking arms with Vikings management and players, and by your official statement on the matter, you supported players’ First Amendment right to free speech. You refused to buckle to the White House demagoguery that confuses taking a knee on behalf of racial justice with disrespect for the country.
I was pleased that you and the NFL stood up for a bedrock American principle. Principle trumped profits . . . momentarily. Now filling pockets threatens to empty the initial commitment to the U.S. Constitution.
If the NFL owners today accede to the president’s bullying, I, for one, will take a knee. I will turn off the television Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays . . . as a matter of principle . . . and will invite everyone I know to do the same. Some things are more important than football. They learned that in Germany. I thought we had, too.
Perish the thought, but . . . if the national anthem pre-game ritual requires the equivalent of a “Sieg Heil!” salute that abrogates the right to free speech, maybe it’s time to end the pre-game ritual and just play football.
I hope and pray this morning that our Jewish friends lead the way today to honor the dead from the history we dare not forget and to stand up for the principle of First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.
And, while you have the floor, I hope you will bring to the league’s attention the duplicity of having defended the league against the president’s criticism of taking the knee while, at the same time, the owners appear to collude to exclude the original kneeler, Colin Kaeppernick, from taking the practice field.
Gordon C. Stewart