The players taking a knee during the anthem are protesting racial injustice in this country. They are protesting the fact that one’s skin tone is the difference between believing a police officer is going to save you and believing a police officer is going to literally kill you. How military personnel treat people in an occupied country is a salient discussion (see: Iraq) not only as an academic appeal to human decency but as a pragmatic approach to reducing risk to military personnel. How police treat people, yeah even people committing crimes, is similarly not just an appeal to decency. An officer engaging a citizen who fears for his life … this is an infinite loop like the arms race. Cop needs to be more aggressive to prevent violence from citizen. Citizen needs to be more aggressive in resistance to officer. And no one wins. Racial relations in general are a difficult discussion, and how to ensure reasonable treatment in situations with inequitable power distribution is exponentially more difficult. Protesters are saying there’s a problem in the country that needs to be addressed.
And we all know how Trump feels about difficult ‘stuff’ – avoid, deflect, avoid some more. Some people are partaking in peaceful protest at their workplace — that’s employment law and barely free speech. There’s a good bit of case law behind companies being allowed to prohibit free speech of employees (i.e. if I reflect poorly on my company, they can fire me). Sorry, but free speech does not ensure freedom from consequences. The government won’t stop you from marching in a Neo-Nazi rally … but your employer may fire you. Your neighbors may never speak to you again.
The president of the United States (a.k.a. ‘the government’) advocates private employers fire individuals over expressions that the company did not deem worthy of reprimand … this comes really close to actually infringing on an individual’s First Amendment rights where no such infraction previously existed.
It is a nationwide straw man debate, and now other sports players are using the same protest as a symbol of their support for first amendment rights. Glad people support the first amendment (especially when you see surveys where they ask if people support actual content of the bill of rights and not just “the third amendment” – hint: the bill of rights doesn’t poll well in details). But the discussion that was being sought – how to ensure police officers are adequately trained and incentivized to diffuse dangerous situations – has become obscured.