We’ve previously seen a NFL team (the Baltimore Ravens) blame player protests during the national anthem for low attendance, and we’ve seen another team (the New Orleans Saints) sued by a season ticketholder over player protests. Now, a state lawmaker in Indiana has proposed a bill that would require the Colts to offer refunds to fans in attendance if their players kneel during the anthem. (It would not go into effect if visiting players kneel.) Here’s more from Justin L. Mack and Kaitlin L. Lange of The Indianapolis Star:
Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, said his bill would allow fans who feel disrespected by the kneeling to ask for a refund during the first quarter.
“To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it’s not respecting the national anthem or our country,” Smith said. “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.”
The Star article goes on to describe how this started with Smith and his daughter attending a September game where players protested, where he stayed but was offended, saying “I’m pretty patriotic, and it didn’t sit right with me.” However, there are some challenges with trying to pass legislation to force a NFL team to offer refunds over players’ political actions, as an ACLU representative notes in the story:
Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU Indiana, said his proposal could be a constitutional violation.
“In effect by passing the law, government would be weighing in…and fining political speech by the Indianapolis Colts,” Henegar said. “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.”
The Republican Party controls both the House and the Senate in Indiana, and governor Eric Holcomb is also a Republican, so if Smith is able to get enough support for this within his party, it could pass. However, the Colts tend to also be influential in Indiana politics, and a bill so specifically targeting them seems far from guaranteed to succeed.
Smith has also taken controversial and unsuccessful stances in the past, such as trying to ban same-sex marriage in 2014, a decision criticized by his gay son Chris. That move stalled when the proposed constitutional amendment wasn’t placed on the ballot. We’ll see if this move gets further. But it’s certainly interesting to see a lawmaker trying to force a NFL team to offer refunds over player protests. And if it does get anywhere, that might further motivate teams to try and restrict players’ protests, or to cut or not sign those who do protest.