President Donald Trump is reportedly pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop’s Jack Phillips, who has said making cakes for same-sex weddings would violate his First Amendment right to free speech.
After fielding a series of questions about the president’s decision to cancel the customary White House trip for the Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, ostensibly over the kneeling controversy—and several players saying they wouldn’t attend—NBC’s Peter Alexander attempted to clarify the administration’s position regarding free speech.
The Philadelphia Eagles Football Team was invited to the White House. Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event. Staying in the Locker Room for the playing of our National Anthem is as disrespectful to our country as kneeling. Sorry!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2018
“The administration came out in support of the baker’s freedom of expression in yesterday’s Supreme Court case. I guess I’m asking, why are athletes’ rights to express themselves freely any different than the baker’s?” he asked Sanders at Tuesday’s press briefing.
Sanders said the administration is “pleased” with the decision.
“The First Amendment prohibits government from discriminating against the basis of religious beliefs, and the Supreme Court rightly concluded that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission failed to show tolerance and respect for his religious beliefs,” she said. “In this case and others the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously defend the free speech and religious freedom First Amendment rights.”
The Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling, saying the Colorado Civil Rights Commission did not fairly hear Phillips’ argument that his religious liberty was being infringed upon. It did not, however, issue a definitive ruling on the substance of the case, which is whether an individual’s right to freedom of expression trumps the right to not be discriminated against in the public sphere.
“So if the White House supports the baker’s right of free speech, why doesn’t the White House support the players’ right to free speech?” Alexander pressed.
“The president doesn’t think that this is an issue simply of free speech,” Sanders said. “He thinks it’s about respecting the men and women of our military, it’s about respecting our national anthem, and it’s about standing out of pride for that.”
Players have said they were kneeling to protest police brutality, not as a statement against the military. Further, save one athlete who was cut before the regular season who took a knee during a preseason game, no Eagles player knelt during the National Anthem throughout the 2017 season.
The National Football League has announced that it will fine teams whose players kneel during the anthem in the upcoming season. Players will be able to remain in the locker room during the playing of the anthem if they so wish.
According to a recent poll, most Americans disagree with Trump, with 75% of respondents saying they do not agree with granting business owners the ability to discriminate against the LGBTQ community by citing their religious beliefs.
Watch Sanders answer the questions from Alexander in the video below.