During an impassioned speech from the House floor Monday night, Rep. Sheila Lee Jackson (D-Texas) knelt in a show of solidarity with NFL players challenging President Donald Trump to protest police brutality and racism in America.
Jackson Lee, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, criticized Trump’s verbal attack on players who kneel during the national anthem at games, calling his comments blatantly racist. At a rally in Huntsville, Ala. last Friday, the president called on NFL team owners to fire the “son’s of b-tches” who dare protest during the anthem.
Trump’s comments didn’t sit well with many Americans, including Jackson Lee, who demanded to know exactly which NFL players’ mothers the president was cursing.
“That is racism,” the lawmaker said Monday. “You cannot deny it.”
Then, she took a knee herself.
“I kneel in honor of them. I kneel in front of the flag and on this floor,” Jackson Lee declared.
“I kneel in honor of the First Amendment,” she added. “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 and I’ll stand with our soldiers. And I’ll stand with America, because I kneel.”
The congresswoman’s stance comes just days after more than 200 NFL players and team owners took a knee, linked arms in solidarity or flat out refused to leave the locker room during the anthem in response to Trump’s comments. The protest was first started by ex-San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, who drew widespread controversy after he kneeled during the anthem to speak out against racial injustice and police brutality.
Jackson Lee noted that in no where in the First Amendment does it say people cannot kneel during the national anthem or in front of the flag.
“There is no regulation that says these young men cannot stand against the dishonoring of their mothers [either],” she added.
Despite the backlash from players, owners and lawmakers alike, Trump doubled down on his remarks in a series of tweets, saying the NFL and its fans should not condone players who refuse to stand for the anthem. He also challenged that idea that his opposition to the kneeling players had anything to do with race.