Here’s a letter to the Washington Examiner:
You report that Donald Trump tweeted: “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem” (“Trump: Players with ‘privilege’ to make millions in NFL should not be allowed to ‘disrespect’ the USA,” Sept. 24).
This past January 20th Trump took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Apparently he didn’t read the document that he solemnly swore to uphold. Nowhere in the Constitution, or in any of the vast accretion of Anglo-American common law upon which that document rests, is there the faintest hint that an individual’s freedom to earn a living requires that individual to pay homage to – or even to refrain from showing disrespect toward – flags and other symbols of the state. Indeed, the spirit of both the American Declaration and the Constitution is that individuals are and ought to be free from any pressure applied by government to express or to not express themselves in whatever peaceful ways they choose and for whatever reasons they have.
The irony of a sitting president of the United States’s ignorant – and, we might say, un-American – outburst against NFL players’ peaceful refusal to show ‘respect’ for the national anthem is that this very outburst only further justifies peaceful protests, such as those by the players, against the words and actions of the likes of Trump and other such officials who, it seems, would have us behave as forelock-tugging supplicants before the state and all of its officialdom.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030