During the U.S. football season in the fall of 2017, we have had a national kneeling controversy. It centers over whether the players have a right to kneel in protest during the national anthem. There have been enough varied opinions on this issue to fill a massive number of talk shows and ESPN commentary sessions. Many argue that “freedom of speech” is the issue, even though not a word is spoken.
This debate has ignored the right of coaches to kneel–including high school football coaches. Two years ago a Bremerton, Washington, high school coach named Joe Kennedy was fired for kneeling in prayer on the field after football games. There is no indication that players participated or were asked to participate. Kennedy appealed, and the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against him, The court said he: “Took advantage of his position to press his particular views upon impressionable and captive minds before him.” Kennedy served 20 years in the marines, and he says, “I just want the same rights as everyone else. What applies for one should apply to every American.”
As the kneeling controversy continues, I know many middle school and high school coaches in my area who have a moment of silent prayer or meditation before a game starts. If someone objected, that would probably be forbidden also.
In a C-SPAN interview, Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said that we must “be able to determine where we are as Americans. If we are going to honor all free speech and all free exercise of religion, we need to be able to honor that universally.” We agree wholeheartedly.
–John N. Clayton © 2017