CBC chair Cedric Richmond (D-Louisiana) said that the 49-member caucus—representing 78 million Americans— fully supported their right to peacefully protest in the tradition of other patriots who loved the United States enough to call out its wrongs and prompt it to live up to its highest ideals.
In a more than 1,800 word letter sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Richmond urged team owners to consider their side. Provided below are excerpts of the letter.
For African Americans, it is not about standing, sitting, or kneeling for the National Anthem―it is about unarmed African Americans lying in a grave who were shot and killed by police officers. It is also about a justice system that says that encountering a Black person is enough reason for a police officer to fear for his or her life.
However, there are others who think that the real problem is kneeling during the National Anthem. They say that people who kneel during the National Anthem are engaged in an un-American act that is disrespectful to the country, the military, and the American Flag. They also say that these people are extremists.
I disagree with them. Peacefully protesting is one of the most American things any citizen can do. In fact, it is a form of “speech” that is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. This is the same amendment that gives white supremacists the right to say “I hope you get raped by a nigger”
in Charlottesville, Va., and members of Black Lives Matter the right to say “hands up, don’t shoot”
in Ferguson, Mo.
Failure by some to understand this basic civics lesson is a problem. But what is more problematic is their failure to realize that kneeling during the National Anthem is not the cause, but the effect, and that they are more outraged by it than they are about the shooting and killing of unarmed African Americans.
It is unfortunate that protestors have to give up their time and money to protest police brutality. (Some, like Heather Heyer
, risk their lives.) But it is even more unfortunate that federal, state, and local officials, as well as our justice system, have left these protestors with “no alternative,” and that they feel that there is no other way but to take their cause to the streets. And the fact that their patriotism is questioned by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and others for doing so is even more unfortunate still.
Because the CBC is fighting for the same thing as they are, we will stand, sit, and kneel with them and other patriots who share our goals. We hope that you will stand, sit, and kneel with us.
As Dr. King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”