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September 25, 2017

Free speech and Trump’s reaction to NFL protesters

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Note: This piece includes inappropriate language.
  • President Donald Trump’s comments that professional football players should be fired if they kneel during the national anthem have ignited condemnation from players, coaches and owners of three major sports. Trump took aim at the players during a rally in Alabama on Friday.
  • The NFL’s Colin Kaepernick was the first to kneel during the anthem last year as a protest against police brutality.
  • During Friday’s rally Trump said NFL owners should respond to players by saying, “Get that son of a b**** off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!” Trump urged fans to leave the stadium as a sign of support for the national anthem. He also criticized the NFL’s efforts to prevent concussions, saying “They’re ruining the game.”
  • While Kaepernick recently received an award from the NFL player’s union for humanitarian work, the 29-year old Stanford graduate has yet to sign a contract with a new team, leading his supporters to say he is being punished or “blackballed” for his protests.

Discussion questions:
  1. Essential question: Why is the decision by professional athletes to take a knee during the national anthem controversial?
  2. Do you think President Trump should have spoken out against NFL players’ decision to “take a knee” during the national anthem? Why or why not?
  3. Are NFL players’ constitutional rights including the First Amendment’s freedom of speech protected if they choose to protest during the national anthem? If you are not sure, how do you think you could find out?
  4. Is football the place for politics? Should NFL players be allowed to protest by not standing during the national anthem?
  5. Colin Kaepernick has ‘etched a place in history, according to Kevin Blackistone, Washington Post columnist and Univ. of Maryland professor. What do you think Blackistone meant by this statement? Do you agree or disagree? Explain.
  6. Media literacy question: Let your students know that media literacy includes analyzing why certain images were chosen for use in a story. Take a look at the image below. What expressions do you see on the players’ faces who are taking a knee? What about the individuals who are standing? Why is context important when looking at images?

San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold (58), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and free safety Eric Reid (35) kneel in protest during the playing of the national anthem before a NFL game in Santa Clara, California, on Oct 6, 2016. Photo credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Extension activity:

Twitter simulation activity: Let your students know that President Trump is the first president in U.S. history to use Twitter in the manner and with the frequency he does in order to directly address the American people. You may want to leave some time to discuss whether this is a positive move for U.S. democracy or not.

In 140 characters or less, ask students to write a tweet on a Word or Google doc (don’t actually tweet; explain what a simulation is to your students) agreeing or disagreeing with President Trump’s rally comments or a professional athlete who has chosen to take a knee during the national anthem. Students should share their tweets with a neighbor or together as a class.

Need some tips on using Twitter in the classroom? Check out KQED Education’s “Guide to Using Twitter in Your Teaching Practice” And remember, this is a simulated Twitter exercise. Remind your students that when individuals express ideas via social media, it should be done in a respectful and thoughtful way.

Example tweets using #TakeAKnee and #WhyWeStand:

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