William Sullivan, at American Thinker, makes a good effort at dispelling the confusion.
[T]here are the stock defenders of [the NFL players’] actions invoking the First Amendment as an enshrined protection for their actions. Even some unlikelier defenders, such as National Review, have framed this as a free speech issue.
To be perfectly clear, doing so is an exercise in stupidity. The First Amendment provides Americans protection to enact displays of protest, certainly. The question that goes continually and aggravatingly unaddressed is, protection from whom?
It would be wishful thinking, I suppose, to imagine that Americans who support the NFL protesters might take the fifteen or twenty seconds necessary to google and read the First Amendment.
Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
“Congress shall make no law.” The framers inscribed a document related to the powers and limitations of the federal government. Therefore, it is only logical to understand that this refers to the federal Congress. The federal Congress shall make no laws to infringe upon these rights.
So where is the federal law that outlaws kneeling during the National Anthem at a pro football game? If there were such a law, it would run afoul of the First Amendment. But there is no such law.
Also, I’m not aloof to the fact that judicial precedent in case law evidences a much broader interpretation of the First Amendment, suggesting that it applies to the state and local governments as well. Even considering that broader scope raises another question: who is rushing to arrest the kneeling sports star for his violation of any such standing law at the state level? No one.
So what has the First Amendment to do with any of this?
Nothing. Not one single thing. Anyone with half a brain and thirty seconds to digest the meaning of the First Amendment should be able to understand that without difficulty.
Now let’s move on and consider what these National Anthem protests actually mean.
The kneelers argue that they do not mean to disrespect the flag, or those who have fought and died for this country, or America as a whole. Of course, their actions certainly disrespect all of those things, and suggesting otherwise should be ridiculous on its face.
So why, exactly, are they kneeling?
Those kneeling assert that there is an epidemic of white police officers who work their beat every night with the explicit intention to murder innocent black people. They are suggesting that there is an epidemic of institutional white racism in this country going unaddressed, and that the only way to draw attention to this, the Black Lives Matter narrative, is to kneel during the National Anthem at pro football games.
There is no convincing evidence that either claim is true, and it is a malicious narrative that has arguably already led to a death toll among police officers being targeted for their presumably widespread racism and brutality.
The left argues that the players’ demonstrations force me to recognize that this narrative exists, as if I’m not forced to recognize the existence of this narrative with the myriad protests and riots infused with this Black Lives Matter-inspired rhetoric and impetus. They imagine that I and millions of other Americans don’t accept this narrative only because it’s not being adequately thrown in our faces.
I, among millions of other Americans, refuse to accept that. I therefore find those kneeling during the National Anthem in order to advance that narrative despicable, entitled babies for whom I have no respect and who are undeserving of my financial support.