High Schools Start Caving To Trump – Will Punish Athletes Who Won’t Stand For National Anthem

As if Trump calling for a private organization to fire people who refuse to stand for the national anthem wasn’t bad enough, it now seems that some high schools have decided to follow his dangerous lead. Parkway High School, in Bossier, Louisiana, will start punishing football players who won’t stand for the national anthem. They could face less playing time or getting kicked off the team entirely.

Waylon Bates, Parkway’s principal, says that they “require students to stand in a respectful manner throughout the National Anthem during any sporting event in which their team is participating.”

“Failure to comply will result in loss of playing time and/or participation as directed by the head coach and principal. Continued failure to comply will result in removal from the team. Parkway High School is committed to creating a positive environment for sporting events that is free of disruption to the athletic contest or game.”

CBS News says that Bates is trying to keep politics out of his schools athletics. He accomplished the exact opposite with this letter, though. In fact, there’s a chance now that this will only spur black athletes and their allies to do exactly what Bates does not want them doing.

Evidently, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association allows schools to set their own rules about this kind of thing, so other high schools may or may not follow suit here. But the school doesn’t seem to care about anything except forcing students to worship the flag. This is one of the replies to Shaun King’s tweet:

Too bad for the school that case law seems to be on the side of any students who wish protest, well, anything by not standing for the national anthem. Almost 75 years ago, in the midst of WWII, the Supreme Court delivered a 6-3 decision stating that public school systems cannot require students to salute the flag in West Virginia State Board of Education et al v. Barnette et al. This decision reversed an earlier SCOTUS decision upholding the ability of schools and districts to do that exact thing.

This case is generally seen in the context that requiring students to salute the flag can be a violation of religious principles since the plaintiffs were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their religion prohibits them from saluting symbols. The majority opinion, however, barely even mentions religious freedom. Justice Jackson, writing for the majority in West Virginia Board of Ed v. Barnette, tied this to other freedoms protected in the Bill of Rights, rather than making it about religious expression. He held that “freedoms of speech and of press, of assembly, and of worship may not be infringed [on] slender grounds,” and wrote:

“Censorship or suppression of expression of opinion is tolerated by our Constitution only when the expression presents a clear and present danger of action of a kind the State is empowered to prevent and publish. It would seem that involuntary affirmation could be commanded only on even more immediate and urgent grounds than silence.”

In this case, Jackson believed that silence didn’t “create a clear and present danger that would justify an effort even to muffle expression,” and said:

“To sustain the compulsory flag salute we are required to say that a Bill of Rights which guards the individual’s right to speak his own mind left it open to public authorities to compel him to utter what is not in his mind.”

Justice Jackson essentially turned the case into one where the government tries to establish its own religion and tries to force its own views onto people; in that case, children. And it could be seen this way in Parkway’s case, too, since standing for the national anthem can be considered saluting the flag. The school has delivered an ultimatum to its student athletes: Stand during the national anthem or else.

Trump set off a firestorm by calling for NFL owners to fire players who sit or kneel (or stay in the locker room) during the national anthem. Despite the backlash, he’s doubled down, and tripled down, and quadrupled down on it, spending a lot of time on Twitter slamming the NFL and completely ignoring the reasons behind the protests (to say nothing of his continued slights to Puerto Rico, which is now in the midst of a humanitarian crisis thanks to back-to-back powerful hurricanes).

And now, high schools are starting to weigh in, and it may well be illegal for them to do so. Despite sports being extra-curricular, this is still a school official forcing his students to worship a symbol. And Parkway High School’s principal has dragged politics into his athletic program with an ill-advised letter violating the First Amendment rights of students.

Featured image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images