As a decorated veteran and a lawyer, I oppose the NFL national anthem rule (letter)
June 19, 2018
I have been a lawyer in Colorado since 1973, and as a lawyer, I have always regarded the First Amendment as the cornerstone of our democracy. I am also a Vietnam veteran. I held the rank of staff sergeant but functioned as an infantry platoon sergeant in both Vietnam and Cambodia. During my tour of duty, I was awarded a Bronze Star for Valor for saving the life of a fellow soldier.
I was also an opponent of the United States' involvement in Vietnam and exercised my First Amendment rights by writing for the anti-war movement both before and during my service in Vietnam.
So why did I go to Vietnam if I opposed the war? I wanted to be a lawyer since I was about 10 and so did not want to leave the United States and I believed in the underlying principles of the United States and our Constitution. Thus, I could justify my participation because it was my country, even if I thought we were wrong in our involvement, and I took comfort in my First Amendment right to speak out against the war.
When I served in our military, I did not do so to honor our flag or our national anthem. Those are mere symbols for the Constitutional rights that we enjoy in the United States, and probably the most important constitutional right that we have as Americans is our First Amendment right of free speech. That is a right of Americans; the flag and national anthem are mere symbols of that right. So, I have to ask, why is the NFL elevating mere symbols over their players' Constitutional right of free speech?
My wife and I are longtime NFL fans. We grew up as fans of the Detroit Lions and then moved to Denver and became Denver Bronco fans. Our two daughters and our two sons-in-law, one of whom played Division 1 football for Wisconsin, have likewise been tremendous fans of the NFL. However, when the NFL decided to elevate the symbols of the flag and national anthem over the right of the players to exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech, they lost us all.
The players who took a knee during the national anthem protested in a respectful manner and in no way dishonored the service of veterans such as myself. However, the NFL, by stifling the respectful protest of the NFL players, has dishonored veterans such as myself who fought, in part, to preserve our First Amendment rights.
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Thus, until the NFL allows players to respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights of free speech by kneeling during the national anthem, members of our family will no longer be watching NFL games.
James C. Ruh
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