Unity, the NFL, and Memorial Day

This Memorial Day Weekend, I’ll join with millions of Americans to stand in unity honoring the brave men and women who have lost their lives defending this country.

In Tallahassee, we’re proud of our work to make the city more veteran-friendly, from hiring initiatives to becoming one of the first Purple Heart cities in America.

They made the ultimate sacrifice defending our country and the Constitution, including the First Amendment.

Which makes President Trump’s latest divisive attack all the more damaging to a country worn out by his disgusting vitriol. He said that players exercising their First Amendment rights “shouldn’t be in the country.”

I’ve questioned this President and his Administration’s actions and motivations countless times since Trump first began running and declared that “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He’s called African countries and Haiti “shitholes.” He’s mocked the disabled, and he’s mocked veterans like Senator McCain.

The President has done everything in his considerable power to divide us from one another, and this year, on the eve of Memorial Day, he’s gone even further by suggesting we deport NFL players. Where exactly would he deport them to?

Our country is not perfect, and many rightly think it is far from perfect. And there are plenty of people who disagree with that assessment. I know that we’re still on our journey to the Founders’ vision of a “more perfect union.”

And I know that this moment requires real moral leadership and unity. It requires a President with the ability to heal our country, and help us bend the arc of history towards justice and reconciliation.

In the 60’s, our Presidents wrestled with enormous questions about segregation in public housing, public education, and the ballot box. They knew the deep significance of the Civil Rights Movement, and they knew it had to be handled delicately. I can scarcely imagine what the Oval Office’s current occupant would have said about Dr. King, Fannie Lou Hamer, or Rosa Parks.

This Memorial Day, I’m going to put my hand over my heart and acknowledge our flag. This fall, I know there are going to be NFL players who choose to take a knee. We all have the right to express ourselves, and it’s one of the most important rights we have in our great country. The idea that an American President would threaten to deport an American citizen for their political beliefs is an anathema to who we are as a country. All of us, regardless of race or party, are better than that.

And I challenge the President and his Party to not just demand action on respecting our flag, but instead take real action on poverty, wages, police conduct, sexual assault, and health care. Those are significant issues that affect people’s lives every single day.

Those who served our country and gave the last full measure of devotion deserve better — I believe they demand it.

Let’s work together to heal our country and elevate ourselves above the vengeful, angry divisiveness emanating from the White House.

Wishing everyone a very safe, happy, and memorable Memorial Day.