Beto O'Rourke Defends NFL Protests in Viral Video: 'I Can Think of Nothing More American'

Texas state Representative Beto O'Rourke appeared in a now-viral video responding to a Houston town hall question about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

The 16th congressional district Democrat is currently embroiled in a close U.S. Senate campaign to unseat incumbent Senator Ted Cruz. O'Rourke, who appeared in a widely shared video last week featuring him skateboarding to a Whataburger, received the NowThis video publisher treatment this week in a video that has amassed millions of views. The clip of O'Rourke being asked how he personally feels about "how disrespectful it is...for NFL players to kneel during the national anthems."

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Texas state Representative Beto O'Rourke appears in a now-viral video responding to a Houston town hall question about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. Screenshot: NowThis News

O'Rourke then launches into a wide-ranging defense of the NFL players' controversial protests, invoking how civil rights activists and veterans alike are deserving of respect as Americans.

The text of the viral Houston town hall video is below:

"My short answer is no, I don't think it's disrespectful. Here's my longer answer, but I'm gonna try to make sure that I get this right because I think it's a really important question. And reasonable people can disagree on this issue, let's begin there. And it makes them no less American to come down on a different conclusion on this issue, right? You're every bit as American all the same.

But I'm reminded that somebody mentioned reading the Taylor Branch book—you did—"Parting the Waters: [America] in the King Years." And when you read that book and find out what Dr. King and this nonviolent, peaceful movement to secure better—because they didn't get full—civil rights for their fellow Americans, the challenges that they face—those who died in Philadelphia, Mississippi, for the crime of trying to be a man, trying to be a woman, in this country; the young girls who died in the church bombing; those who were beaten within an inch of their life crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, with John Lewis; those who were punched in the face, spat upon, dragged out by their collar at the Woolworth lunch counter for sitting with white people at that same lunch counter, in the same country where their fathers may have bled the same blood on the battlefields of Omaha Beach or Okinawa or anywhere that anyone ever served this country.

The freedoms that we have were purchased not just by those in uniform, and they definitely were. But also by those who took their lives into their hands riding those Greyhound buses, the Freedom Riders in the deep South in the 1960s who knew full well that they would be arrested, and they were, serving time in the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Rosa Parks getting from the back of the bus to the front of the bus. Peaceful, nonviolent protests, including taking a knee at a football game to point out that black men, unarmed; black teenagers, unarmed; and black children, unarmed, are being killed at a frightening level right now, including by members of law enforcement, without accountability and without justice.

And this problem—as grave as it is—is not gonna fix itself, and they're frustrated, frankly, with people like me and those in positions of public trust and power who have been unable to resolve this or bring justice for what has been done and to stop it from continuing to happen in this country. And so nonviolently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem and ensure that we fix it. That is why they're doing it, and I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee for your rights anytime, anywhere, anyplace."

A vast array of celebrities and sports figures including actor Russell Crowe and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr commended O'Rourke for his defense of the kneeling protests.