The NFL player’s union has released a statement in support of footballers who knelt during a game attended by Vice President Mike Pence, who walked out of the stadium in response to the player’s protest.
The NFL Player’s Association released the statement Sunday after Pence and President Donald Trump coordinated a publicity stunt whereby Pence would leave Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis after seeing members of the San Francisco 49ers kneeling during the anthem — as many players have done this season in protest of social inequality and police brutality.
NFL players are union members and part of the labor movement that has woven the fabric of America for generations.
Our men and their families are also conscientious Americans who continue to be forces for good through our communities and some have decided to use their platform to peacefully raise awareness to issues that deserve attention.
It is a source of enormous pride that some of the best conversations about these issues have taken place in our locker rooms in a respectful, civil and thoughtful way that should serve as a model for how all of us can communicate with each other.
Pence justified his costly stunt by saying he would not “dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” though players disputed that the protest did any of those things or even had the intention.
— Vice President Pence (@VP) October 8, 2017
The NFLPA said in response that free speech and the right to protest are important to the American identity.
“We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects. That is what makes us the land of the free and home of the brave,” the union said in the statement.
Eric Reid, one of the first players to take a knee in protest alongside former 49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick, criticized Pence’s antics.
“This is what systemic oppression looks like,” Reid said. “A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple of things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts.”