Prominent Vermont Democrats support ‘take-a-knee’ protests

With much of the nation abuzz about NFL players kneeling to protest America’s national anthem and flag, some Vermont politicians say they endorse “taking a knee.”

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POLITICAL FOOTBALL: The national anthem is a moment to honor the nation, flag and military, but some — including some Vermont politicians — support taking a knee to make a political statement during America’s most popular patriotic ritual.

The fiasco started in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers now-former quarterback Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee during the anthem to protest supposed police violence against blacks.

This year the protest gesture spread to other players and teams, and now the NFL is facing a backlash from angry fans in the form of boos, lagging attendance and declining TV ratings. The NFL is now the least liked sport.

The practice hit a crescendo two Sundays ago when 200 players around the NFL took a knee or didn’t show on the field for the anthem. Days earlier, President Donald Trump said that players disrespecting the nation during the anthem should be fired.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a bitch off the field,” Trump said during a rally in Alabama.

Since Trump jumped into the cultural battle, the debate has turned sharply in Trump’s favor, with fewer players and teams allowing the protest to continue. On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence walked out of the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the 49ers when about 20 San Francisco players took a knee during the anthem.

Back in Vermont, numerous politicians are siding with public acts of anti-patriotism toward the nation.

Democrat gubernatorial candidate James Ehlers jumped into the controversy with the following message on his Facebook page.

“I do have strong feelings about it, as a veteran,” Ehlers told True North in an interview.

He said he’s been an outspoken veterans advocate for years and advised Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on veterans issues.

“Not all veterans think alike, so I’m not speaking on behalf of all veterans, but the whole notion of people trying to re-frame why these athletes are peacefully demonstrating is, I think, a partisan division tactic.”

He referenced the John Carlos and Tommie Smith salute at the 1968 Olympics as an inspiration to himself and perhaps some of the athletes who took part in these demonstrations.

“That was during the playing of the national anthem at the ’68 Olympics, at the height of what people considered the civil rights struggle, Martin Luther King having just been assassinated,” he said.

He said he began defending Kaepernick a year ago on social media, “when he was being called a spoiled punk and a lousy football player just trying to attract attention to himself.”

“As someone who’s worked on social justice issues, institutional racism is still alive and well,” he added.

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, told True North the protest is about drawing attention to racial inequities.

“For me the quagmire isn’t so much about the action itself, it’s about the root,” she said. “It’s about having history in this country of unequal treatment of people of different races.”

Johnson said she and her colleagues have shown solidarity by backing fair and impartial policing and by looking at demographic disparities in education.

“Schools with more resources tend to be schools with a whiter population, and schools with a higher percentage of students of color on average have less resources.”

“There’s a big inequity in education systems — in race and incarceration, and even in race and being pulled over for traffic stops,” she said. “We see these issues with incarceration here in Vermont as well.”

She added that those who say honoring the anthem is important should look at their own behavior, even at home.

“I’ve been to plenty of Super Bowl parties or Sunday afternoon games at home and people are continuing to talk over [the national anthem] and chow on nachos. It’s far more disrespectful than quietly and intentionally, and very respectfully, taking a knee.”

Other left-wing politicians have backed the take-a-knee protest. State Rep. Mary Sullivan, D-Burlington, called the protest “very respectful” on Facebook.

State Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, also weighed in on the topic, characterizing the protests as “appropriate.”

“I think that what the coaches, owners and players are doing is appropriate and I think it’s certainly their right to do so,” he said. “It takes some real courage, and I’m glad that the people on the teams are standing together to stand up for what they believe in.

“It’s a form of silent protest, which is [part of] being a democracy, which is good,” he said.

Asked what his message would be to those in the state with veterans in their family or who may have lost loved ones fighting for the country, he had this message.

“The issue had to do with the relationship between black Americans and law enforcement, and as we all know there’s been a lot of problems, a lot of violent murders of black men by law enforcement,” Pollina said.

Yet he criticized Trump for expressing his free speech about the matter.

“For the president to say they should be fired for doing that, it would be like saying you should be fired from your job for doing something like that. It’s inappropriate.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons and Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons

20 thoughts on “Prominent Vermont Democrats support ‘take-a-knee’ protests

  1. I dont know why many cannot understand that the kneeling is not meant as a disrespect to the flag, it is meant as a peaceful protest about racial injustice.

    James Ehlers, the Dem. governor candidate who several on here felt the need to insult, is a veteran. He was willing to put his life on the line so that others have the right to peacefully protest. So yes, he has the right to say he supports kneeling in order to peacefully protest racial injustice.

    The president of this country took an oath to protect the Constitution. That same Constitution allows for free speech and peaceful protest.

    Why is it that so many who fight so hard to protect the 2nd amendment, seem to not care about the 1st amendment if it is an issue they disagree with?

    You cannot say you support the Constitution while at the same time denying others the right to exercise the very rights that the Constitution gives them.

  2. In case you haven’t noticed, the war between left and right has been ramped up recently. At some point it will cross a point of no return. Think seriously about this and what you really value. Then decide if you have the balls to defend it.

  3. Those mentioned herein who support the ‘knee’ crap are well know Communists in our community. They hate America (because they have no knowledge of history) and think that America is what is wrong with the world. These slime should be thrown out of office, but Vermonters are very foolish voters who vote on name recognition, only.

    • James Ehler’s who is mentioned in the article as running for governor, is a veteran.

      He was willing to put his life on the line for this country so no, he does not hate this country.

      Neither do the others.

      My father has a Purple Heart from the Korean War and while he would strongly disagree with not standing for the anthem, he also would know he put his life on the line so that people have the right to protest.

      I dont know how many times people have to say this until you and others understand. The kneeling is NOT about the flag or the country.

      It is a protest against what many (including myself) feel is racial injustice.

      It has nothing to do with hating this country or not understanding history, I have no idea how you even got that idea.

      It has everything to do with having the right to free speech.

      Why is it that so many who fight so hard to protect the 2nd amendment, seem to not care about the 1st amendment if it is an issue they disagree with?

      Like it or not, people have the right to free speech in this country, and they have that right to do so without fear of retribution, as long as it is peaceful.

    • I served in the US Army. My brother is Master Sgt in Army National Guard who has done 3 tours to the middle East and is about to go on another one. My nephew just joined. I married an 11 bravo Airborne. And I support peaceful protesting in ALL forms. That is the kind of freedom we serve to uphold.

      Having a propensity to throw everyone who disagrees with you into the same bucket only shows an unwillingness to converse with people outside a limited social circle.

      It’s a big, diverse world out here. That’s the truth, whether it is acknowledged or not.

      Kneeling is a sign of respecting a state of distress, typically for fellow players on the field, but in this case, for a country being strongly divided along racial lines. Again. Still. America will only be made “great” again when RESPECT comes back as a priority.

  4. Anthony Pollina says “For the president to say they should be fired for doing that, it would be like saying you should be fired from your job for doing something like that.” Yup! Guess it applies not only to ‘that’ but also to ‘something like that’. This guy is really deep.

  5. Everyone needs to remember that these players are working for a PRIVATE for profit enterprise. If you use your boss’ computer to make political statements, send items via e-mail the company doesn’t like, they can’t reprimand you, suspend you or fire you. Free speech only exists in the purview of the Government.

    The owners can and should put an end to this nonsense. Pence has the right to walk out; Americans have to right to NOT watch, refuse to attend and not buy NFL goods.

    As of now the advertisers are making it known that they are hearing from their buyers of goods. The bottom line is money. That will be the deciding factor.The players will be told “Stand of be fired”. There is a clause in the contracts stating that the players will bring no harm or disgrace to the League or Teams.

    That won’t be a problem; the players can fall back on those wonderful degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering, Chemistry and Metallurgy. They can return to school and get their Ph.D’s.

    • Pence certainly did have the right to walk out.

      But he did not have the right to attend the game, KNOWING he was going to walk out while costing hundreds of thousands of tax payers money, not to mention tying up Secret Service who might have been needed elsewhere.

      The entire area around the stadium had to be secured and caused inconvience for thousands of fans trying to enter the stadium.

      And like, “Bridgegate” in NJ, it also prevented ambulences from getting through traffic, as well as causing traffic delays for hundreds of others.

      If it had been Biden in the Obama administration who pulled a stunt like this, I think you might be feeling a bit different.

      Americans, including myself, are willing to put up with some inconvience, and to have our tax money go to legitimate trips that our government leaders need to do in order to work for us.

      But we are not willing to put up with the above just so someone can pull a political stunt that sorely backfired.

      Pence told his press pool not to bother coming into the stadium as he would not be in there very long. He and Trump planned this and not only wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars, but inconvienced many just to do this political stunt.

      Talk about wasting tax payers money.

  6. As a former military service member, I wholly support taking a knee to make a stand. These are the freedoms we fight for. What our reps are saying is that peaceful protesting should be a protected form of dissent. And what was America founded upon? The overthrow of an oppressive government?
    I’m proud to live in a state where so many value freedom. Not just for the elite, but for all. James Ehlers for Governor! Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a freedom-fighting water protector leading our little state!!

    • “I do have strong feelings about it, as a veteran,” Ehlers told True North in an interview.

      I know James Ehlers going way back and consider him a thoughtful Patriot. While I may not agree with him on every issue, he was always clear headed and rational in taking his positions.

      – Robert Maynard

  7. Cut off all taxpayers subsidies to the NFL and let the wealthy owners and players pay for the stadiums. If you like good football, support your local high school or college team.

  8. As one of their NFL peers stated so eloquently with words to the effect that if these kneelers making millions under the system they are protesting really cared about the injustice they see, they would get off their knees and get out into the neighborhoods and schools with their message because that could make a difference. As for Ehlers, at least he’s open about his beliefs and the folks can make an educated decision before they vote.

  9. Team members will kneel when a fellow player is hurt… those kneeling during the anthem kneel for our country that is hurting and to bring attention to why. I’m happy to see that James Ehlers supports this statement and thrilled to see that he is running for Governor of Vermont in 2018.

  10. Democrat gubernatorial candidate James Ehlers , stand with taking a knee !! What else would one expect from a Leftist Democrat … enough said.

  11. There was absolutely no way I would vote James Ehlers for governor of Vermont

    We already have too much dissension and government to use another issue to divide us

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