New York, NY – When members of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus “took a knee” at City Hall on
Wednesday in support of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other pro athletes protesting unchecked police brutality aimed at people of color — the head of the Civil Service & Labor Committee said that such actions are not only patriotic, but rooted in the trade unionist movement.
“The fundamental right to protest is not just American, it is also rooted in the right to collective bargaining and the right to organize,” Council Member I. Daneek Miller told LaborPress.
The protests that Kaepernick inspired last year, when he began sitting out the National Anthem in response to the police killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and so many others, began on the field — the 2012 Super Bowl quarterback’s workplace.
This week, after players around the nation took up Kaepernick’s mantle and took a kneee on the gridiron, Donald Trump jeered them as “SOBs” for essentially exercising their free speech rights in the workplace, and urged NFL owners to have them fired.
“That’s just wrong,” Council Member I. Daneek Miller continued. “We want to be able to protect workers at all times, right? And so, we’re not looking to create a precedent that’s going to undermine workers throughout [the country].”
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, immediately issued a response to Trump’s slurs saying that the union will back its members and their First Amendment rights.
“This union, however, will never back down when it comes to protecting the Constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks,” Smith said.
Trump’s latest outburst has earned him widespread condemnation — including from NFL owners — as well as renewed calls for his impeachment.
Council Member Brad Lander, [D-39th District] likened the current U.S commander-in-chief of the armed forces to a “tyrant.”
“It’s not that Trump just denounced protestors, the leader of the country threatened people’s livelihood for peaceful protest,” Council Member Brad Lander said. “Obviously, taking a knee in protest against a tyrant is not disrespect to the flag, or to this country, or to the people who fought for it. In fact, it is how the country itself was created.”
Council Member Jumaane Williams [D-45th District] criticized people attempting to “minimize the issue” and pretend that taking a knee is somehow about being “against the flag.”
“They’re are veterans supporting [taking a knee], the Brooklyn lawmaker said. “There are NYPD officers who also stood with Kap.”
In August, dozens of NYPD police officers, along with famed former NYPD detective Frank Serpico, rallied in Brooklyn in support of the still out-of-work NFL quaterback and his silent protests against police violence.
Two weeks ago, at a rally in support of 1,800 Charter/Spectrum employees, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch told members of IBEW Local 3 that their union fight was his members’ fight.
“As all unions, we have to stand here together,” the PBA leader said. “Remember this, sisters and brothers — you’re on that side of the barrier, my members are on this side with a job to do. But if they could, they’d jump that barrier to be with you.”
Council Member Williams said he didn’t expect to see Lynch, himself, take a knee, but that other members of the police department already have.
“I don’t expect to see Pat Lynch here, but there are police officers who have taken the knee and are supporting Kaepernick,” Council Member Williams said. “And if people try to say they’re not real police officers, then you have to question why they are saying that. There are police officers who are openly supporting Kaepernick. There are veterans who are saying they were shot and risked their lives to allow Kaepernick to do this — to allow us to do this.”
Council Member Miller, meanwhile, said that despite his fondness for the sport, the NFL is in danger of losing his support if it kowtows to Trump.
“I will not support an organization or entity that surpasses the voice of myself or my people — and that is Colin and the rest of the workers that choose to protest,” the Civil Service & Labor chair said. “Until they do begin to take more substantive steps to demonstrate that they do support the rights of these voices — I won’t be supporting the NFL, for sure.”