Following an Iowa vs. Wisconsin women’s basketball game in mid-February, Senator Grassley asked in a tweet why a black female Badger player was not patriotic “enuf” (sic) to stand for the national anthem. Grassley’s tweet directed his twitter followers to ask the Wisconsin Coach and “exprress (sic) outrage” to the University of Wisconsin.
Iowa constituents asked me why a starter for Wisconsin women Bb wld not be patriotic enuf to stand for natl anthem song today /ASK THE WISCONSIN COACH/ Exprress outrage to university
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) February 19, 2018
Senator Grassley was directing his twitter rage against Marsha Howard, a University of Wisconsin womens basketball star. Howard has been quietly protesting gun violence since the beginning of the basketball season. In previous games she remained in the tunnel before entering the court as a protest over gun violence. At the University of Iowa game there was no tunnel or hallway near the Badger bench so she remained sitting during the anthem.
Senator Grassley is parroting FOX news host Laura Ingraham by suggesting black athletes have no constitutional rights to protest injustices. Ingraham criticized Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James for “talking politics” during a recent ESPN interview.
Ingraham called James’s comments “barely intelligible” and “ungrammatical” on her Fox News program The Ingraham Angle. She added “Keep the political comments to yourselves … Shut up and dribble.”
“Facts prove the systematic oppression and the fight to keep people of color in the back with their mouths shut,” Howard said. “It’s not ‘shut up and dribble’ when we’re out doing for the community. Whenever we stand up or speak on topics that relate to us about racial disparities, it’s always ‘shut up and dribble.’
Howard, from Chicago, is a strong advocate for reduced gun violence. She is simply following the lead of amateur and professional athletes across the nation that have protested injustices during the national anthem over the past year and a half. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has proven to be extremely effective in raising issues of violence and racial injustice. Howard’s activism and commitment is adding to this momentum.
Senator Grassley as the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee plays a pivotal role in the selection of the judges who ultimately interpret the Constitution. He has a unique responsibility to defend and advance Constitutional rights for all Americans. Senator Grassley should be reminded that he is betraying his unique Constitutional role by criticizing Howard’s First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble and express her opposition to gun violence.
First Amendment – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
“I don’t understand how exercising my constitutional right isn’t being patriotic. The First Amendment allows me to petition the government and to peacefully assemble,” said Howard.
Grassley is claiming Howard wasn’t “patriotic enuf” (sic) to stand during the national anthem. But Senator Grassley is intentionally ignoring Howard’s fundamental constitutional rights to express herself. Apparently, Grassley thinks black athletes should just “shut up and dribble.” He’s perfectly happy to cheer their athletic skills but they must keep quiet about their political views.
Patriotism doesn’t require censuring political thought and the Constitution clearly guarantees free speech rights. Many would argue that protesting injustice is a patriotic duty.
“It was his opinion but I refuse to back down from what I believe in,” Howard said.
“I have not only been protesting the brutal acts of gun violence but also the improper attainment of justice and liberty for all, and the understated emphasis on racialization and inequality of people of color. Systemic racism is important to me because it affects me, my family, my culture, and the systematic oppression we have endured…“What inspired this protest was having a platform that I can use to speak for myself and others who aren’t given the same opportunity; the voiceless Americans,” she said.
Wisconsin’s Head Coach Jonathan Tsipis and the University of Wisconsin defended Howard’s action. He answered Grassley’s criticism by supporting her right to protest.
“I’m proud of Marsha to be able to express her opinion, and we’ll continue to support our players,” Tsipis said.
by Rick Smith