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Beto O’Rourke praised for defense of NFL players’ protests



Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a Texas Democrat running for Senate.
Beto O’Rourke, a Texas Democrat running for

Chris Covatta/Getty

  • Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Texas Democrat running against
    Sen. Ted Cruz, is receiving widespread plaudits for his viral
    defense of NFL players who protest police misconduct and gun
  • Democrats, critics of the president, and some
    influential voices in sports praised O’Rourke’s passionate
    comments on the importance of peaceful protest in the fight for
    civil rights.
  • This comes as President Donald Trump doubled down on
    his criticism of the professional athletes, many of whom are

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Texas Democrat running against Sen. Ted
Cruz, is receiving widespread plaudits for his viral defense of
NFL players who protest police misconduct and gun violence — even
as the president doubles down on his criticism of the

During a campaign stop last week, O’Rourke was
whether NFL players are disrespecting the country and
veterans by kneeling in protest during the national anthem.

The congressman began by praising the question and arguing that
“reasonable people can disagree … and it makes them no less
American” before launching into a passionate defense of the
players’ right to free speech and the historic importance of
peaceful protest in the movement for civil rights. 

“Non-violently, peacefully, while the eyes of
this country are watching these games, they take a knee
to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to
ensure that we fix it,” O’Rourke said of the football
players. “That is why they are doing it. And I can think of
nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a
knee, for your rights, any time, anywhere, in any

O’Rourke compared the actions of black activists who sat in,
marched, and protested during the US civil rights movement to the
actions of US military veterans who have defended their country
on the battlefield. 

O’Rourke’s viral comments drew widespread praise from Democrats
and Republicans who are critical of the president, as well as
from influential voices in the world of sports. 

Progressive New York Times opinion columnist Charles Blow tweeted
out the link to O’Rourke’s monologue, writing,
“Friends have been trying to sell me on @BetoORourke for months.
I just didn’t know much about him. Okay, now I’m SOLD!” 

NBA coach Steve Kerr, who’s been outspoken in his support of
athletes’ right to protest, also tweeted
out the video, writing, “Please watch this and be reminded of
what thoughtful leadership looks and sounds like. Thank you
@BetoORourke for giving us a glimpse of our future. Things will
get better!” 

Actor Russell Crowe also
jumped in
 to support O’Rourke.  



Cruz criticized O’Rourke’s comments last week and has repeatedly
condemned NFL players for “disrespecting the flag.” 

“When Beto O’Rourke says he can’t think of anything more American
(than players taking a knee), well I got to tell you, I can,”
told the Corpus Christi Caller Times
 last week.

But the Republican senator, a self-described “Constitutionalist,”
has also said the protesters shouldn’t be censored. Cruz recently argued
that while the football league “would be well-advised not to tell
half of their fans to go jump in a lake,” he added that he
fully supports NFL players’ “right to say whatever they like” and
that Americans should condemn, rather than censor, their protest.

President Donald Trump has taken an even more hard-line
approach to the issue, which he’s elevated into a national
political debate. During
a rally in West Virginia
on Tuesday night, Trump criticized
both the players and ESPN for not airing the national anthem
before “Monday Night Football” games — a practice in line with
the league’s past policy.

“You’re proud of our country, you’re proud of our history, and
unlike the NFL, you always honor and cherish our great American
flag,” Trump told the crowd. “It was just announced by ESPN that
rather than defending our anthem, our beautiful, beautiful
national anthem and defending our flag, they’ve decided that they
just won’t broadcast when they play the national anthem. We don’t
like that.”

O’Rourke, 44, has outraised Cruz in his Senate bid — even

while banning corporate PAC money
from his campaign — and in
July alone, he raised a staggering
$2.9 million
online. For months, he has attracted the
attention of national Democrats with a strong social media
presence. And while
recent polls
show Cruz six points ahead in the red state, the
non-partisan Cook Political Report
earlier this month
moved the race from “likely Republican” to
“lean Republican.” 

The congressman’s campaign rolled out
its first campaign ad
in late July — a $1.2 million

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