Key Words: This may be the best defense of national-anthem protesters you…

Key Words: This may be the best defense of national-anthem protesters you…

This may be the best defense of national-anthem protesters you’ll ever hear from a politician

‘Nonviolently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it. That is why they are doing it. And I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, any time, anywhere, in any place.”

That’s just part of Beto O’Rourke’s passionate take on why protesting NFL players, with a new season only a couple of weeks away, should be supported by anybody who understands U.S. history.

O’Rourke went on to describe how peaceful protests over the years have brought about necessary social change, using Marin Luther King and the Freedom Riders of the civil-rights movement as examples.

He studiously avoided demonizing those on the other side of the argument: “Reasonable people can disagree on this issue,” O’Rourke said. “And it makes them no less American to come to a different conclusion.”

Watch his whole speech, which he delivered in Houston earlier this month.

Former NFL players cheered his message.

Donté Stallworth observed, “It’s really this simple,” while Kurt Warner, frequently categorized as one of the game’s conservatives, pointed to the nonpartisan nature of O’Rourke’s defense with this tweet:

Every past & present fan of NFL – please listen – I believe he hit the nail on the head & he did so not by dividing the 2 sides but by joining them together in realizing the freedoms of our country have been forged by soldiers but also by many others who have fought in diff ways! https://t.co/zDxYgMAmAz

— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) August 22, 2018

But this is America in 2018, and both sides clearly tend to dig in.

Republican Ted Cruz, who’s defending his Senate seat against O’Rourke in what’s shaping up to be a surprisingly tight race in Texas, rallied supporters at a campaign stop in Corpus Christi over the weekend by rejecting his opponent’s stance.

“When Beto O’Rourke says he can’t think of anything more American [than players taking a knee], well, I got to tell you, I can,” Cruz said to loud applause, according to a report from USA Today.

And while O’Rourke’s speech was going viral on Tuesday, President Trump doubled down on his position at a rally in West Virginia.

“You’re proud of our country, you’re proud of our history, and, unlike the NFL, you always honor and cherish our great American flag,” he said. “It was just announced by ESPN that rather than defending our anthem, our beautiful, beautiful national anthem and defending our flag, they’ve decided that they just won’t broadcast when they play the national anthem. We don’t like that.”

Watch a clip from the Trump rally:

“You are proud of our history. And unlike the NFL, you always honor and cherish our great American flag,” President Trump tells WV supporters at rally https://t.co/s3fdGxVJQv pic.twitter.com/smLLkuCrsu

— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 21, 2018

Shawn Langlois

Shawn Langlois is an editor and writer for MarketWatch in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @slangwise.

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