State auditor discusses NFL controversy

Participates in Constitution Day at Lordstown

Tribune Chronicle / Renee Fox Ohio Auditor Dave Yost delivers a speech Tuesday to students at Lordstown High School to mark Constitution Day, which was Sept. 17. Yost talked about the NFL controversy involving President Donald Trump, saying it’s an example of freedom of speech being protected by the First Amendment.

LORDSTOWN — In a speech celebrating Constitution Day at Lordstown High School, the state auditor, a Republican, addressed the battle between the NFL and the president in a way students said they agreed with.

“Nobody in the government has the right to tell those players that take a knee that they aren’t allowed to take a knee,” said Ohio Auditor Dave Yost. “And nobody in the government has the right to tell people who are offended by that that they’re not allowed to speak out and criticize it. That’s what the Constitution means when it talks about the freedom of speech. It means, even if it’s not really fun, even if it makes people really, really mad, the government’s not allowed to tell you to stop. That’s what freedom is. And the guarantee of that freedom comes from the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.”

More than 200 NFL players and owners found ways to show dissent during pro football games over the weekend. Raised fists and other gestures came after Republican President Donald Trump’s comments at a Friday night rally in Huntsville, Ala., where he mused to the crowd: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that [expletive] off the field right now! Out! He’s fired. Fired!'”

Trump continued to criticize protesters Tuesday, saying in a news conference at the White House that he was “ashamed of what was taking place” with the kneeling protesters. Trump said Americans have died and been injured in defense of their country.

“So President Trump is allowed to say that he doesn’t like it. But he’s not allowed to stop it. You see the difference? We are allowed to say we don’t like it. Or, we’re all allowed to say we do like it. And that’s the thing that makes America so incredibly different and unique,” Yost said.

Yost addressed the controversy without being political, controversial or putting his opinion into the mix, said Addison Wilson, an 11th-grader in the school’s political history club.

“(Yost) addressed it both ways, from the kneelers’ standpoint to the people who are upset by the kneelers’ standpoint,” Wilson said.

Yost also cited a survey of college students that seemed to show many of them didn’t realize the Constitution protects all kinds of speech, even the kind people aren’t comfortable with.

That is why Constitution Day is so important, said Emma Crissman, a member of the club.

“People don’t know their rights. Constitution Day is a chance to teach them about it, to share the information in a way that will reach people,” Crissman said.

Constitution Day was Sept. 17. The school had other events last week to educate students. Students who were eligible registered to vote and seniors were given a copy of the U.S. Constitution.

“It is our duty as Americans to know our rights,” said Lindsey Burns, a student in the club.