When Indiana State Rep. Milo Smith left the Indianapolis Colts’ Sept. 24 game, he felt triggered.
Not because his Colts played terribly, although they did a lot of that in a year they won only four games (including the one Rep. Smith attended) and finished dead last in their division. No, it was because Smith had personally witnessed a handful of the Colts’ players take a knee during the national anthem.
Smith (R-Columbus) was so offended he introduced a bill last week that would require the Indianapolis Colts to offer refunds to fans who purchase tickets if those fans are also offended by players kneeling for the national anthem.
“To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it’s not respecting the national anthem or our country,” Smith told the Indy Star. “I’m pretty patriotic, and it didn’t sit right with me.”
A gross abuse of legislative office? A misguided attempt to impose government force on a private transaction? A potential violation of the U.S. Constitution? Smith’s proposal is all three.
“His proposed law is an absurd assault on the First Amendment because it tackles, if you will, political speech of the players by exerting economic pressure on their employer, the Indianapolis Colts,” says Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana. “The First Amendment protects each of us from government controlling what we say, and it certainly protects businesses and their employees from government regulation that seeks to discourage speech based on its content.”
Smith is, of course, free to express his disagreement with the players’ decision to kneel for the anthem. He’s completely free to voice those opinions to newspapers like the Indy Star or to post on social media—like President Donald Trump has done, often, throughout the current football season. He’s also free to stop buying tickets to Colts’ games, stop watching National Football League games on TV, and to request a refund from the team for the game he attended in September (good luck with that last one).
Being a member of the state legislature does not give Smith the right to legislate against every little thing that offends him. It’s no better than would-be senator Roy Moore arguing that it’s illegal to kneel during the anthem. It’s no better than the suggestion, made by Trump in September, that NFL teams should fire players who protest the anthem.
Those protests, by the way, started as a way to make a point about police brutality against blacks—something that’s been largely forgotten as the protests and reactions to them were subsumed by political tribalism once Trump got involved.
Conservative snowflakes who turn to government as a means of solving their problems, whether in the Indiana statehouse or the White House, will end up like the Colts did this season—big, big losers.
By Eric Boehm/Reason
Posted by The NON-Conformist