With a fair number of Americans’ attention focused on Trump’s attack on professional athletes, primarily African American athletes, for exercising their Constitutional right to protest police violence, they may have missed a terrifying, and telling, statement from the Trump administration. According to Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Americans do not have First Amendment rights in the workplace. The possible repercussions of this mind-numbing proclamation are nothing short of horrifying, and if any American thinks this kind of prohibition will end in professional sports, they have no clue how fascism starts or that once put in place, no employee will be safe.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was defending Trump’s assaults on professional athletes’ free speech on CNN when he explained where the administration is going with the issue and exactly what the administration thinks of the Constitution. Trump’s interpretation of the Constitution, and the First Amendment, is that “NFL players only have a right to free speech off the field.”
Apparently, after Trump’s nasty comments about American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights elicited a fair amount of outrage from decent Americans, Mnuchin had to explain where Trump intends to take this atrocity. He said:
“The NFL has all different types of rules: you can’t have stickers on your helmet, you have to have your uniforms tucked in. What the president is saying — and I think the owners should meet and they should vote on a rule — this is about respect for our military, this is about respect for our first responders. This is not about Republicans or Democrats. Players have the right for free speech off the field. On the field, this is about respect for lots of people. And I don’t understand why there’s rules that when the Dallas Cowboys wanted to put stickers on their helmet out of respect for people there, they couldn’t do it, but now the NFL is saying people should be able to decide what they want to do and disrespect the United States flag.”
Mnuchin is a liar; probably a requirement to serve under Trump. Because he knows, and those athletes have made it abundantly clear that “taking a knee” is protesting racial injustice; they are not disrespecting the military, first responders, Trump, any flag or any song. After Sunday’s display of solidarity and the weekend criticism against Trump’s attacks on athletes, now they are protesting against the fascist Trump.
These revelations by Mnuchin are the latest in a series of Trump’s attacks on the First Amendment and it informs that limiting free speech for private citizens is high on the Trump administration’s agenda. It has barely been two weeks since Trump’s press secretary called for CNN host Jemele Hill to be fired because she uttered a glaringly obvious truth in a “tweet;” that Trump is a white supremacist. That alarming call for Ms. Hill’s firing proves Trump’s fascist assault on free speech is not reserved for professional athletes. Trump approves of free speech, and the First Amendment, but only when it agrees with, or praises, him.
The latest assault on the First Amendment is continuation of First attacks that began directly after Trump’s poorly attended inauguration. Eight days after that inauguration Trump acolytes Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway said that “commentators should shut their mouths,” and that they “should be fired” if they made less than positive remarks about Trump.
In April, then-chief of staff Reince Priebus said Trump is “probably going to look at arresting or stripping the citizenship” from people the administration doesn’t think should be allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights.
In May, Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, was fascinated that Saudi Arabia prohibited its citizens’ free expression and speech and he thought it was a better policy because it kept dissenting voices, and protestors, silent. It is where Trump wants to take America.
All of these attacks on the First Amendment began during Trump’s campaign when he called for the arrest of Americans protesting against his candidacy. Perhaps now is the time the people blowing off warnings that Trump was going to assault the Constitution if he was allowed anywhere near the White House should apologize for being stupid.
Trump signaled throughout the campaign exactly what he thought of the First Amendment and now his administration is not only assaulting it, they are restricting where and when it can be exercised.
There are no prohibitions on First Amendment rights in the Constitution, and it is noteworthy that the Supreme Court has even ruled that burning an American flag, although an idiotic form of free expression, is protected by the First Amendment. According to Trump, and now Mnuchin, the High Court is wrong and free expression does not apply at a person’s place of employment; this is how fascism begins.
The implications of a prohibiting Americans to exercise their constitutional rights in the workplace are terrifying. The risk to employees of the fanatical religious right under this “no rights in the workplace” idea is epic, and particularly so since religious Republicans have attempted to violate Americans’ constitutional rights of privacy and freedom from religious imposition for quite some time.
Under this fascist idea that First Amendment rights are null and void in the workplace, women refusing to sign over their medical records and reproductive history can be fired because their constitutional rights to privacy will not apply in the workplace. Public school teachers refusing to teach the Christian bible and lead evangelical-approved prayers could be summarily fired because the “speech and religious freedoms” enshrined in the First Amendment would not apply on the job.
Now the Trump administration openly says free speech is restricted in the workplace, and plenty of Republicans have attempted to restrict dissenting speech in the public square; some going so far as embracing the idea of running over protestors. This latest development is, although frightening on its face, a signal from the Trump administration that the assault on professional athletes is a prelude to the assault on the general public. Regardless how far the Trump administration plans to take this fascist idea, Americans should be appalled that Trump’s administration is saying out loud that their constitutional rights do not apply in the workplace and there is no telling how long before the restrictions apply in the public square.