An Indiana state lawmaker is proposing a new law that would require the NFL's Indianapolis Colts to offer refunds if one of its players kneels during the national anthem at a home game.
State Rep. Milo Smith, a Republican who represents Columbus in the state legislature, said his bill is needed because athletes disrespect the U.S. when they protest during the national anthem.
"To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it's not respecting the national anthem or our country," Smith said, according to IndyStar. "Our government isn't perfect, but it's still the best country in the world and I think we need to be respectful of it."
Smith said he was attending a Colts game against the Cleveland Browns in September when several Colts players took a knee during the anthem. The player's action offended Smith, but he didn't leave the game.
"I'm pretty patriotic, and it didn't sit right with me," he said.
The protest Smith witnessed in September was part of a wave of action that spread in the NFL after President Donald Trump called for players who kneel during the anthem to be fired. Inspired by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a small number of players had been taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. After the president's comments, players from nearly every team in the NFL joined the protest, sparking wide debate over their actions.
In October, Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence walked out of a Colts game after players from the visiting 49ers took a knee during the anthem.
"I left today's Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem," he tweeted after leaving the stadium, according to IndyStar.
Under Smith's proposed law, the vice president would be eligible to receive a refund for his tickets from the Colts.
Critics of Smith's proposal say it would be tantamount to the government policing political speech.
"In effect by passing the law, government would be weighing in ... and fining political speech by the Indianapolis Colts," said Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU Indiana. "It seems like the worst thing that could happen is government weighing in and trying to control in any direction the political speech of private actors."
Commenters on The Root's Facebook page also discussed the proposed law, saying they thought it was pointless and possibly in violation of the First Amendment.
"They pay to see the game," one commenter wrote. "As long as the game is being played who cares whether the players kneel down or stand up. If you were looking at the flag you wouldn't notice the guys so much while the anthem is going. As long as your standing, why care if anyone else is? That's what FREEDOM is!"
"I can't wait for those activist courts to certainly overturn this because of..oh yeah, that pesky Bill of Rights," wrote another commenter.