WASHINGTON — Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) took a knee on the floor of the House tonight during a special order by the Congressional Black Caucus focused on rooting out racism and defending the First Amendment.
“Someone had the lack of judgment to provoke the situation and call their mothers a name,” Jackson Lee said of President Trump using “son of a bitch” last week to refer to NFL players who knelt during the National Anthem in protest of racial injustice.
“I refuse to accept that as a standard of leadership for the highest office in the world — and even if you never understand it… if you think you’re playing to your base, if you’re not the unifier, we will continue to stand in the gap and racism is going to be under our foot,” she said. “And you know where else it’s going to be? It’s going to be under our knee. Because we in the Congressional Black Caucus have always stood for what is right… there is no basis in the First Amendment that says you cannot kneel on the National Anthem or in front of the flag.”
Jackson Lee challenged Trump to identify which players’ mothers, by using the SOB slur, he was calling bitches. “That is racism. You cannot deny it,” she said of the insult.
The congresswoman then knelt and continued her floor speech. “I kneel in honor of the First Amendment,” she said. “I kneel because the flag is a symbol for freedom. I kneel because I’m going to stand against racism. I kneel because I will stand with those young men [in the NFL] and I stand with our soldiers. And I’ll stand with America.”
CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) in a statement earlier today faulted NFL owners who issued statements in support of their players’ right to free speech without acknowledging why they protested. “While a few of these statements mentioned ‘social injustice,’ ‘racial divides,’ and ‘societal issues,’ none of them explicitly mentioned the reason why Mr. Kaepernick and many others (professional athletes, celebrities, elected officials, and citizens) are taking a knee during the National Anthem,” he said.
“They are taking a knee to protest police officers who kill unarmed African Americans – men and women, adults and children, parents and grandparents – with impunity. They are taking a knee to protest a justice system that says that being Black is enough reason for a police officer to fear for his or her life,” Richmond said. “Those words were missing from the statements I read despite the fact that 70 percent of NFL players are Black and many of them, as well as their family and friends, have experienced racial profiling by police that leaves too many unarmed African Americans injured or dead.”
Richmond also questioned whether former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is currently without a team because of his activism. “He is not the first professional athlete to call attention to racial injustice and he will not be the last. But the reality is that he is being penalized for doing so.”
“…I call again on President Trump to start acting like a president and to stop acting like a child. It is no surprise that athletes and others do not want to come to the White House when President Trump calls Black athletes who exercise their First Amendment right to free speech ‘a son of bitch’ and calls White men who yell racial epithets ‘very fine people.’ Perhaps President Trump did not notice that many of those White men were carrying the American flag.”