Springfield native and singer John Legend supports the recent “take a knee” protests by NFL players, saying it’s in a long line of patriotic movements that have helped make America what it is today.
In an op-ed article for Slate.com, Legend blasted President Donald J. Trump for his remarks on Twitter against players who decided to kneel during the performance of the National Anthem, saying the president doesn’t “respect the ideals at the core of our Constitution and national identity.”
“He routinely undermines freedom of religion with his rabid Islamophobia, attacks the free press with disturbing regularity and is now attacking the rights of people to peacefully protest,” he wrote.
Trump has called for the NFL to fire or suspend players who don’t stand during the National Anthem and that kneeling during it was disrespectful.
“The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!” Trump said in Twitter on Monday morning.
The protests follow in the wake of rising tensions regarding race relations in America. Several protests have taken place in major cities across the nation with some ending in violence, such as the protest in Charlottesville several weeks ago that led to the death of one of the protesters after a car was driven into the crowd.
Legend compared the NFL player protests to the marches in 1965 during the Civil Rights Movement.
“Protests in Selma, Alabama, changed the trajectory of this nation and catapulted the Voting Rights Act into being,” he says in the op-ed. “If you think these protests were irrelevant, consider Johnson’s words to Congress: [A]t times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom … So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.”
This isn’t the first time Legend has taken a strong stance on a controversial or social justice issue. He has been a long-time advocate for feminism and in an August interview with Cosmopolitan, he spoke out against toxic masculinity and how “older jock” peer pressure regarding sex and dating affected his life when he was a younger male teen in college.
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Legend also says in his article that the NFL player protests are important because they raises awareness.
“Because these protests are their own from of a pledge-of-allegiance — allegiance to the ideals that are our nation’s founding principles, which many heroes have given their lives to defend,” he said. “They are the definition of patriotism.”