A small Texas town has passed a resolution officially condemning kneeling during the national anthem in a rebuke of Beto O’Rourke, the Democrat Texas senatorial candidate who drew conservative condemnation and liberal plaudits for his position on anthem protests.
According to Reason, Reno — a town of some 2,500 residents about 35 miles northwest of Fort Worth — passed a resolution at its City Council meeting Monday declaring that “it is disrespectful toward, and dishonors the sacrifice of our veterans, service members, and first responders of the United States of America to kneel during the national anthem, a time during which all should stand to recognize and honor the sacrifice they have made to our country.”
The resolution also “declares the statement made by candidate Robert F. O’Rourke that kneeling for the National Anthem is the most American thing anyone can do to be false.”
O’Rourke, the Democrat challenger to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, spoke out in defense of anthem protesters back in August in response to a question from a constituent.
“Peaceful, nonviolent protests, including taking a knee at a football game to point out that black men, unarmed, black teenagers, unarmed and black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement, without accountability, and without justice,” O’Rourke said, according to Sports Illustrated.
This disproportionality theory is actually false — but I digress, since that wasn’t the part of the justification most people eventually noticed.
“And so 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,” O’Rourke said. “And I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, anytime, anywhere, in any place.”
The statement that this is “why they are doing it” is also not entirely true — the biggest week of anthem protests in the NFL was after remarks made by President Donald Trump about team owners firing kneelers, which lends credence to the theory this is more an amorphous reaction against conservatism than anything else — but the idea that there is nothing “more American” than kneeling during the national anthem is fairly preposterous.
The folks on the Reno City Council seemed to agree.
“The Reno City Council considers kneeling during the National Anthem of the United States of America not only un-American but to be one of the highest forms of disrespect anyone can show to the sacrifice and service of our country’s military members, veterans and first responders,” the resolution stated.
It also lists nine actions to be “more American than kneeling during the National Anthem of the United States of America,” including:
- “To give one’s life in the defense of freedom or for the protection of others as military, police, fire or any first responder have done and continue to do daily.”
- “Serving in our nation’s military to defend our country, our citizens and our freedoms.”
- “Showing thanks (to) a veteran or first responder for their dedication and service to country or community.”
- “To peaceably protest real injustices without disrespecting and dishonoring the sacrifice of our veterans, service members and their families.”
Reno Mayor Eric Hunter said that he felt kneeling during the anthem was “disrespectful to veterans and the sacrifices they have made to our country” and that while he supports the “right” of athletes to kneel the council disagrees with it. As for O’Rourke, Hunter said “we disagree with a candidate for senator saying (kneeling is) the most American thing he can do or that someone could do.”
Reason wasn’t exactly thrilled with the resolution, noting that since the protests had mostly petered and that “(y)ou could probably count on one hand the number of players who’ve knelt during the playing of the national anthem so far this NFL season … the fight has long since ceased to be about the legitimate debate over policing practices. Instead it is now the province of partisans and culture warriors.”
I’ll be fair and note, in full disclosure, that the author of the Reason article is one of my former editors (Joe Setyon, for whom I have nothing but the highest admiration), but I would also add that the NFL Player’s Association has waged a bitter conflict over the league’s new policy on protesting the national anthem, which has in turn been put on hold by the league until likely at least next year, if it ever comes into effect at all.
You could count the number of anthem protesters during Week 1 on two hands (the number is nine, something I’ll mention mostly because Joe never would have let me get away with being vague). That might not be much compared with the Trump-fueled kneel-o-rama last September, but the NFL and NFLPA could hardly be termed mere “partisans and culture warriors” as actors, at least when it comes to the issue of the national anthem. This also assumes another round of protests won’t result from the fact we’re now in the process of culturally relitigating the legacy of one Colin Kaepernick.
And while a Senate candidate may indeed be a partisan as a candidate, he’s expected to represent the whole state if he gets elected. When Beto O’Rourke says he “can think of nothing more American” than kneeling for the national anthem at your job, I’d argue that’s problematic. “Nothing more American,” after all, is a superlative. The City Council of Reno, Texas, thought of nine things more American than what O’Rourke proposed. I think a lot of Texans could come up with a few more than that.
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