Taking a knee.

According to twitter today El Presidente is trying to pressure NFL owners to prevent their players from “taking a knee” during the anthem. NFL commissioner Roger Goddell has penned a letter to NFL owners telling them the players should stand.

I’m sure it’s just an odd coincidence those two things happened within hours of each other. Sometimes things fall out of the sky like that.

Just like the coincidences I see in court. Like, the one where all the clients I’ve ever represented who got pulled over for minor traffic offenses but ended up laying on the deck with tazer electrodes stuck in their skin were African American.

Just an odd coincidence as well. I’m sure that, in the tens of thousands of cases I’ve touched, if a white guy ever stayed on the cell phone after getting pulled over for speeding he’d get tazered, too.  It must never have happened.  Totally coincidence.

Speaking of coincidences, as a red-blooded, freedom-loving, bill of rights doting American lawyer patriot, I have opinions on the pre-game anthem knee fest.

If you want to know what I think about not standing for the anthem before an NFL game, here it is:

  1. I’m tuning in for football. Knee, stand, sit, salute, whatever… if you’re not being actively disruptive I don’t see it as being disrespectful.  Kick the ball off and let me get this Bears loss out of the way so I can get on with my day.
  2. Before pro sports games is a really weird time to be playing the anthem, anyway.  Playing the American anthem before Canadian citizens try to kill each other on ice skates puzzles me to no end. Perhaps we should dispense with the pre-modern-day-gladiator shows of patriotism and do our singing before things like court, city counsel meetings, and trips to the proctologist.
  3. I’ve discussed #1 above with several veterans, none of which were personally offended, so I don’t buy that taking a knee is per se disrespectful in that regard.  If you are a veteran who is offended solely by virtue of your service, I’d politely (and sincerely) like to thank you for that service and we can respectfully agree to disagree on this.  That doesn’t mean we have to dislike each other.  I really shouldn’t even have to write that last part.

While we’re on the subject of taking a knee, coincidentally, I have some thoughts on the racial disparity that started it all.

If you want to know what I think about the “coincidences” of racial disparities in the criminal justice system, they are almost as odd as the timing of Goddell’s letter:

  1. The “informal” data of more than 17 years mixing it up on the frontlines of the war on the war on drugs and other various efforts to push back the government’s minimization of the bill of rights tells me that there are gross racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
  2. There have been a lot of studies (some well done with lots of data, others not) that corroborate #1 above.
  3. I checked again last week for a study rebutting #2 above and could not find one (I’d love to read anything I missed, though… if you have one please send it to me).

Regarding #2 above, there was even a United States Supreme Court case (McClesky vs. Kemp) dealing with a “minor” sentencing issue (putting living people to death), where the Supreme Court adopted, as true, a study showing gross racial disparities.  I don’t want to ruin the shocking end for you, but African American defendants were being executed at a much higher rate than whites for similar offenses, and the Supreme Court didn’t care.

The shocking part to that opinion isn’t really that the court upheld the death sentence despite assuming gross, systemic racism. The shocking part isn’t even courts still don’t care today (the case is still cited as “good law”).

The shocking part is that McClesky is ground-zero for maintaining the status quo and that taking a knee during the anthem is the strongest form of protest we’re seeing.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

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