How is it possible that even a U.S. senator doesn’t understand the law?
Over the past couple of days, as approximately 250 NFL players spent the National Anthem down on one knee, many conservative Christians have been posting memes online asking why those players get respect while guys like Tim Tebow (who frequently kneeled and prayed to God after big plays) and Joe Kennedy (who prayed midfield after the high school football games he coached and whose contract wasn’t renewed) were ridiculed or shunned.
This isn’t a tough question. The answer is obvious. The players over the weekend were protesting against police brutality, systemic racism, the nastiness of Donald Trump, and the myriad other injustices that black players face. They weren’t trying to single themselves out. They weren’t trying to out-Jesus everyone. They were taking a stance over a larger question of injustice that affects themselves and their teammates. It was a noble cause.
Tebow turned a team sport into moments all about him and his God. There are plenty of Christian football players in the NFL, but only Tebow had the audacity to make a spectacle of his prayers, as if he was putting on a show since God wouldn’t be able to know what’s happening otherwise. The only reason Tebow’s no longer playing in the NFL is because he just wasn’t as good as everyone thought he would be. (The general consensus about Colin Kaepernick, on the other hand, is that he’s probably better than many of the second and third string quarterbacks who are on NFL teams. And he wasn’t celebrated; he became a pariah.)
And Kennedy was literally breaking the law when he led students in prayer after games. He, too, was turning a team sport — for kids, no less — into showcases for his religion. He was indirectly telling the students that they would be on his good side if they joined in. He was sending the message that the District supported his Christian activism. For all those reasons, the District decided not to renew his contract.
All those facts, unfortunately, were lost on Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who made this comment yesterday:
“For whatever reason in America, if individual players kneel in protest at a football game, that’s seen as free speech,” Lankford told reporters.
“We do have high school coaches that have kneeled in silent prayer, and they’ve been fired,” he added…
“We can’t say to one football coach, you’re fired if you kneel in silent prayer at the end of the game, but to a player, if you kneel in protest at a game, you’re celebrated,” Lankford said. “We’ve got to be able to determine where we are as Americans on that, if we’re going to honor all free speech and all free exercise of religion, we ought to be able to honor that universally.”
Teachers, while on the job, aren’t allowed to proselytize whenever and wherever they want. Those rules don’t apply to NFL players. It’s not that complicated, and it shouldn’t be complicated for a man sworn to uphold the First Amendment.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Brian for the link)