The National Football League just adopted a new policy aimed at players who protest during the national anthem. Essentially, the players will be punished if they “take a knee.” President Donald Trump backed the new rule, suggesting that players who kneel “maybe shouldn’t be in the country.”
As someone who considers himself an advocate for free speech, it is my duty to protest.
I also consider myself a conservative, and I disagree with players who have kneeled, including former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. I am not their fan.
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But I also am not a fan of “political correctness,” which I consider to be the elevation of moral posturing about sensitivity over truth. And this is why the new NFL policy is wrong.
Fellow conservatives will argue that free speech is about government action while the NFL is a private business. They will point out that the league policy gives players the option to remain in the locker room during the national anthem.
They express contempt for those on the political left – “snowflakes” – who use boycotts, shout-downs and other intimidation to squash dissent or differing viewpoints that might offend or insult some group. They criticize businesses that give in to “snowflakes,” and sometimes even pull advertising.
Yet at the same time, these conservatives defend the NFL because they agree with the reason behind this specific policy. This is philosophically inconsistent. Would they feel the same way if some other NFL policy required players to address transgender persons by their preferred alternative pronoun? Not likely.
Players who kneel offend conservatives, so they cheer the NFL for silencing this particular form of speech. That looks a lot like political correctness, only this time, the sensitivity comes from the right. There is no other real difference.
Free-speech proponents – on the left and right – should abhor the new anthem policy. NFL players have the right to voice their opinions on police brutality, race relations or any other issue, just as conservatives do about patriotism, immigration, abortion and a host of other issues.
For our society to explore and resolve important issues, we must preserve the right to offend. There is no other way to truly reach consensus. So if you claim to fight against political correctness in the name of free speech, you cannot cheer the NFL.
You must protest its new policy. Otherwise, you are nothing more than a different type of snowflake.