Symbolic Speech

Colin Kaepernick warms up on the field.

Taking A Knee Discouraged With Player and Team Fines Threatened In Upcoming NFL Season

It started with Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback who played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. To protest what he saw as oppression of people of color, he refused to stand for the National Anthem before his NFL games. His symbolic expression of dissent spread to other players and continued into the 2017 season, exploding into fiery controversy when President Donald Trump urged the NFL and its owners to fire players who refused to honor the National Anthem. The practice of taking a knee even spread to high school football players. Does the First Amendment protect the players when they refuse to stand for the National Anthem? And how does taking a knee fit into America’s history of political protest? We provide historical perspective in From Liberty Tree to Taking a Knee: America’s Founding Era Sheds Light on the NFL Controversy.

June 13, 2018 Below the Fold, Speech, Symbolic Speech
Stephen Solomon, Stephen D. Solomon is Marjorie Deane Professor of Financial Journalism at New York University, where he teaches First Amendment law and is associate director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

Lata Nott Podcast (with FAW Founder Stephen Solomon): Symbolic Speech

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment expert, Lata Nott, originally published this podcast on the Newseum blog, and has given First Amendment Watch permission to reprint.           In this episode of The First Five, Lata Nott speaks with First Amendment expert and historian Stephen Solomon about symbolic speech, or nonverbal acts of expression, and to what extent they are[Read More…]

February 14, 2018 Symbolic Speech, Top Stories
A liberty tree with effigies.

From Liberty Tree to Taking a Knee: America’s Founding Era Sheds Light on the NFL Controversy

Symbolic speech as a form of protest, like taking a knee at a football game while others stand for the National Anthem, enjoys a long history in America. It’s been a powerful form of political expression going back to the protests in the colonies in the 1760s against British oppression. Various forms of symbolic expression—liberty trees, liberty poles, effigies of hated politicians, even the use of the number 45—brought multitudes into the political sphere and was critical in building opposition to British rule. Much of this symbolic expression was controversial and even offensive but a powerful form of protest then and now.

January 25, 2018 Assembly, Below the Fold, Speech, Symbolic Speech