Why So Many Are Sharing This Video Of Beto O'Rourke Defending Players' Right To Kneel

"I can think of nothing more American."

Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who is running against incumbent Ted Cruz for a seat in the U.S. Senate, was recently asked whether he believes it is "disrespectful" for NFL players to kneel during the national anthem. Video of the U.S. representative's thoughtful response has since gone viral.

The question was posed at a recent town hall, by a man who said he found it "frustrating" that many people support the players who take a knee. Some believe the gesture disrespects the flag and the country's veterans, even as the players themselves have made it clear that their protests are not about the anthem or the flag, but rather about police brutality and racial inequality.

"My short answer is no, I don't think it's disrespectful," O'Rourke said, to applause from the crowd. He added his belief that "reasonable people can disagree on this issue," but emphasized the history of peaceful protest in the United States, inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"The freedoms that we have were purchased not just by those in uniform, and they definitely were," he continued, "but also by those who took their lives into their hands riding those Greyhound buses, the Freedom Riders in the deep South in the 1960s, who knew full well that they would be arrested, and they were, serving time in the Mississippi State Penitentiary."

O'Rourke also mentioned Rosa Parks, as well as "those who were beaten within an inch of their life crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, with John Lewis," and the sit-ins at Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.

"Peaceful, nonviolent protesting," he said, "including taking a knee at a football game to point out that Black men, unarmed, Black teenagers, unarmed, and Black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement, without accountability and without justice."

According to Newsweek, a report called "Mapping Police Violence" found that Black people accounted for 25 percent of the more than 1,100 people killed by police in 2017. Black people were also found to be three times as likely to be killed by police as White people. The deaths of unarmed Black men such as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Walter Scott have sparked protests from the Black Lives Matter movement. 

"And this problem, as grave as it is, is not gonna fix itself," O'Rourke explained. "And they're frustrated, frankly, with people like me, and those in positions of public trust and power, who have been unable to resolve this, or bring justice for what has been done, and to stop it from continuing to happen in this country."

In 2016, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was the first player to choose not to stand during the national anthem, at first sitting and eventually taking a knee. His protest inspired other players to do the same. Some, such as Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles, protested in other ways, such as raising their fists.

O'Rourke explained that players take a knee in the hope of drawing attention to these important issues while the country is watching. "I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights — anytime, anywhere, any place," he said to conclude his answer.

Video of O'Rourke's speech has been retweeted and liked hundreds of thousands of times, and many celebrities — from LeBron James to Ellen DeGeneres — have praised him for speaking so eloquently on a subject which too many people misunderstand.

His speech comes as President Donald Trump continues to criticize players who choose to kneel. Just this week, he started a petition for ESPN to show the national anthem during its broadcast of Monday Night Football, which it historically has not done. "You're proud of our country, you're proud of our history, and unlike the NFL, you always honor and cherish our great American flag," he told the crowd at his recent West Virginia rally.

Earlier this year, the NFL announced new rules requiring players to stand for the national anthem or remain in the locker room. The NFL Players' Association filed a grievance over the rules, and the issue is reportedly being discussed. Recently, two Dolphins players took a knee during their preseason opener, and earned praise from Colin Kaepernick for continuing to protest "systemic oppression."

(H/T: Bustle)

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