What's important to Arkansas politicians is public anger over six Razorback women's basketball players quietly kneeling during the National Anthem
as a political statement about treatment of blacks in America by police.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson
, who I tried unsuccessfully to talk about a failure in the Department of Human Services that kept foster children in the home of a serial rapist, was johnny on the spot with a comment on the more vital basketball story today. He issued this statement to KATV:
I'd like to hear debate on steps to provide accountability for state handling of neglected children and leave the 1st Amendment alone. But that's me.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge
got in on the act, too. She's talked with KARK, which promises her words of wisdom tonight. It would be nice to hear the state's top legal officer invoke the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but the governor only danced around it and Rutledge is far more likely to see a lack of respect in last night's event.
The governor frames the issue in a way that is, to put it kindly, incomplete. Some would call it the last refuge. We don't Pledge Allegiance, raise a flag or play the National Anthem merely to honor the military, though certainly that is a part of the American experience. We do it to honor all that the flag stands for, including the right of dissent.
To Republicans, it's only about the military. If you choose to express dissent, you must do so in a way that makes the sensitive Republicans less uncomfortable, preferably out of their view and earshot. A frequent complaint voiced today was that the players protested while receiving scholarships from a public university — as if they'd traded away rights of citizenship by earning an athletic scholarship. That sounds like servitude to me. Plus it is precisely government retaliation for speech that the Constitution was written to prevent.
I should be happy that the governor was relatively moderate.
State Rep. Kim Hammer,
hankering to move up to the state Senate in two years, told KARK's Drew Petrimoulx he's going to place a hold on the state Higher Education Department
budget until he gets satisfaction, whatever that might be.
The reproach wasn't unanimous from politicians. At a "Women of Color" event to urge racial minorities to vote this Tuesday, Sens. Linda Chesterfield
and Joyce Elliott
and Rep. Vivian Flowers
expressed support for the players, Petrimoulx says. So there's that.
And so far, no Republican has proposed a 2nd Amendment solution, but the night is young and Trump is in the air.