Editorials

They defended Kim Davis’ expression of conscience. Why not NFL athletes?

This is rich.

Liberty Counsel, the Florida-based litigators who championed Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’ unconstitutional stand against marriage equality, has weighed in on the protests by National Football League players — a controversy that had all but died until President Donald Trump reignited it by rubbing salt in racial wounds and calling for the athletes to be fired.

The Jerry Falwell-aligned Liberty Counsel is advising that the NFL could halt the protests by taking disciplinary action against athletes and teams who kneel or show “disrespect” during the pre-game national anthem.

Another Kim Davis defender, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, is also piling on. Kentuckians will remember that Huckabee tried to rev up his flagging presidential bid by sharing the spotlight when Davis emerged from the Carter County jail where she spent five days in 2015 for defying a federal court order.

Huckabee said he was willing to go to jail in place of Davis but was unwilling to “spend one day under the tyranny of people who believe they can take our freedom and conscience away.”

Huckabee now finds the athletes’ expression of conscience “morally offensive,” according to a recent interview with the Deseret News. Huckabee, who also criticized them on Fox News, makes the odd argument that people who are paid high salaries should ignore their consciences and keep quiet about the suffering of others.

OK, let’s consider:

Davis is a government official who refused to carry out the duties of her office, violated the oath she took to uphold the U.S. Constitution and violated the rights of her constituents by blocking all marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry. A federal judge recently ordered Kentucky to pay almost $225,000 in legal fees and court costs for the couples who successfully sued Davis for violating their rights.

Davis still has her job.

Colin Kaepernick, a private citizen whose job as an NFL quarterback put him on an admittedly public stage, led the San Francisco 49ers to their first Super Bowl in 18 years in 2012. Last season he peacefully protested police killings of unarmed black men and other forms of racial oppression by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem. A few other NFL players also began kneeling during the anthem.

Kaepernick can’t get a job, not even as a backup quarterback.

The league employs quite a few quarterbacks who are less talented than he is. There’s no reason to think that the non-interest among NFL owners in picking up his contract stems from anything other than their dislike for the controversy he stirred. Kaepernick is being punished for his show of conscience.

That controversy had almost been forgotten until Trump — and assorted other opportunists — revived it as a wedge to divide Americans and wage a culture war.

Trump did, however, unite the NFL. Owners and players are standing arm in arm against the president’s attacks on the rights of Americans to peacefully and respectfully protest what they view as injustice.

As for conscience-defenders Huckabee and Liberty Counsel, what’s the penalty for hypocrisy?

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