On Tuesday evening, NowThis published a video of Beto O’Rourke at a town hall in Houston, where O’Rourke was asked how he felt about the NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.
The Democratic challenger to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz put forth these points:
▪ He doesn’t think kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful. And reasonable people can disagree on this issue.
▪ Those who served this country on the battlefield and during domestic moments such as the civil rights movement made those sacrifices for people to have this debate.
▪ He believes the reason for the kneeling is for those to speak out in front of the nation against police brutality.
▪ He concluded by saying, “I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee for your rights anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”
O’Rourke, who represents Texas’ 16th congressional district which includes El Paso, spoke to the Star-Telegram on Sunday during a campaign stop in Fort Worth.
When the question arose last week during a rally just outside of Houston, he said the reasoning behind former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel was what intrigued him most.
“I had never been asked the question before, but I certainly thought about that,” O’Rourke said. “Why would someone take this almost unprecedented step and put their career in the NFL on the line. It’s because it’s a serious issue but that’s about as far as my thinking went. But when asked the question I just gave my best answer.”
He added that the right to peacefully protest is part of what makes the United States great.
“Even when it comes to an issue of violence where people are literally losing their lives — that we can find a way to peacefully, non-violently protest, politically come together and try to peacefully resolve it,” said O’Rourke. “By waking this country’s conscience I feel those NFL Players were doing that.”
As for his opponent, Cruz’s comments on social media stating that Hollywood was openly supporting O’Rourke because his comments sided with some of their opinions, he said he wasn’t bothered by the comments.
“I don’t pay attention to what Senator Cruz is doing or not doing because I don’t feel like I’m running against him,” he said. “I’m running for this country. For everyone in the state of Texas.”
The comments made by Cruz just deflected away from why NFL players chose to take a knee, according to O’Rourke.
“Coming back to the issue is full civil rights for everyone. Going back to the Declaration of Independence and the fact that we’re all inherently equal,” said O’Rourke. “When that is violated in this country you gotta stand up. You’ve got to speak out and in this case you’ve got to take a knee. I want to make sure that we treat everyone with dignity and respect. And that lives are valued.”
Professional athletes using their platforms to bring attention to social issues is something that should continue, he added.
“I think about Muhammad Ali — who really in many ways sacrificed his career, at least the peak of his career, in order to do what was right and consistent with his conscience,” O’Rourke said. “That’s a really powerful precedent and a reminder of what people are willing to sacrifice in order to make sure that we do the right thing for everyone.”
Staff writer Prescotte Stokes III contributed to this report.