Student athletes have more leeway to anthem-kneel than NFL players, experts say

by: Michael Lopardi

ORLANDO, Fla. – As the nationwide impact of professional players’ kneeling in protest during the national anthem increases, questions of what might happen to student athletes in Central Florida if they decide to join in have arisen.

The issue of kneeling during the anthem gained further national prominence over the weekend when President Donald Trump addressed them during an Alabama speech Friday night.

“Wouldn’t you love to see these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now,” Trump said during the event.

Trump doubled-down on his stance on Twitter Sunday, calling for NFL owners to punish players who refuse to stand for the national anthem.

“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our flag & country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!” Trump tweeted.



While many team owners stood behind their players, with three NFL teams refusing to take the field until after the anthem was played Sunday, the question on a local level is what right, if any, do student athletes have if they want to follow suit.

 First Amendment attorney Lawrence Walters told Channel 9 that student athletes actually have more leeway than NFL players, because the latter are private employees.

“The courts have held that a student does not shed his or her rights under the First Amendment at the school house door,” Walters said.

While school districts across Central Florida have reported few, if any, instances of students taking a knee during the national anthem, many have strong opinions on the practice.

“Don’t take a knee when our Stars and Stripes are playing,” Orlando resident Chuck Zell said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Orlando resident Mohamed Benelbasry, though, supported students’ right to protest.

“If that’s how they feel, then I believe there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.

Walters said students have the right to protest, but noted that there are limits to what that extends to.

“They couldn’t scream or yell or do something that would prevent the other people who are participating from hearing the event,” he said.

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