House Speaker Paul Ryan waded into the NFL protest debate Thursday, calling demonstrations during the National Anthem “misguided.”
“I think it’s misguided to protest the anthem or the flag because people don’t see it as an issue, as some political issue — they see it as protesting against the people who have given their lives for this country and the ideals we all strive for to make a more perfect union,” the Wisconsin Republican said at his weekly news conference when asked to respond to President Donald Trump’s latest comments on the NFL protests. “And so that’s the point I think some people are missing in this debate.”
The players, some of whom have said they are protesting social injustice and police brutality, argue that they are exercising free speech.
The speaker included the caveat that Americans are free to protest and express themselves but implied they should also be aware of the optics of such protests.
”Clearly people have a right to express themselves, that is the First Amendment. What I don’t think people seem to get is, when you do it on the flag or the anthem it looks like you’re protesting against the ideals of America, the patriotism, the people who have put their life on the line for the country.”
Trump has repeatedly criticized the NFL and its players for kneeling or sitting during the playing of the National Anthem. On a Fox News interview that aired Thursday morning, the President said he thinks NFL owners are “afraid of their players.”
“I have so many friends that are owners and they’re in a box,” Trump said during the interview. “I mean, I’ve spoken to a couple of them, and they say, ‘We are in a situation where we need to do something.’ I think they’re afraid of their players, if you want to know the truth, and I think it’s disgraceful.”
By Sunlen Serfaty, CNN