A Congresswoman Defended The First Amendment In A Powerful Speech — And Then Took A Knee

"I kneel in honor of the First Amendment."

This week saw a heated debate over NFL players who choose to kneel during the national anthem, inspired by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's protest of police brutality. Several public figures, including fellow athletes and celebrities, have since taken a knee in solidarity with the players who choose to protest.

Now the gesture has made its way to Congress. On Monday, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas, delivered an impassioned speech defending the players' First Amendment right to protest racism in the United States — and took a knee herself on the House Floor.

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According to HuffPost, Jackson Lee's remarks occurred during a special order of the Congressional Black Caucus. The congresswoman spoke out strongly against the description of kneeling players as sons of "bitches."

"As a mom, I come to this floor, and I say to the mothers of those children, I love your sons," she said. "Thank you to the NFL and the owners who stood up. Thank you to those who are not African American, who joined with their fellow brothers on the field and knelt."

Jackson Lee stressed that the decision to kneel was "not in desecration of the national anthem," nor was it meant as a dishonor to veterans. She went on to offer a defense of the First Amendment, and the players' "right to express themselves."

"We in the Congressional Black Caucus have always stood for what is right," Jackson Lee said. "There is no basis in the First Amendment that says you cannot kneel on the national anthem or in front of the flag."

Towards the end of her speech, Jackson Lee took a knee behind her podium and delivered a powerful statement supporting the right to protest, and emphasizing that the American flag symbolizes the freedom to do just that.

"I kneel in front of the flag and on this floor, I kneel in honor of the First Amendment, I kneel because the flag is a symbol for freedom, I kneel because I am going to stand against racism, I kneel because I will stand with those young men, and I'll stand with our soldiers, and I'll stand with America, because I kneel."

Over the past week, the act of taking a knee — on and off the football field — has become a powerful symbol of solidarity with Kaepernick and others who choose to make a statement against injustice.

On Monday night, the Dallas Cowboys knelt before the anthem with the team's owner Jerry Jones, and X-Files stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny went viral for taking a knee on the set of the show. Before that, Twitter celebrated 97-year-old World War II veteran John Middlemas, who knelt in a photo shared by his grandson and said that "those kids have every right to protest."

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