A United States president once made a wise and heartfelt statement, one we should all remember in the wake of Sunday's silent protests by hundreds of NFL players.
That president wrote: "Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don't always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views."
The date was Jan. 22 of this year, the statement was made on Twitter, and the president was Donald J. Trump.
He was, apparently, lying.
We know that because the same Donald J. Trump spent the weekend angry at NFL protesters, accusing players who choose to kneel during the national anthem -- a choice meant to draw attention to police brutality against black Americans -- of disrespecting America. He said repeatedly, during a rally in Alabama on Friday and on Twitter over the weekend, that these players should be fired.
In two tweets, Lyin' Trump wrote: "If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!"
So much for recognizing people's rights to express their views.
To back Trump up on his complete reversal of opinion, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin went on ABC's "This Week" and said of the NFL players: "This isn't about Democrats, it's not about Republicans, it's not about race, it's not about free speech. They can do free speech on their own time."
They can "do free speech" on their own time? That means no free speech during work hours, folks. Which means, I guess, that I should be fired, as I do free speech on the company dime A LOT.
In fact, I'm going to do some free speech right now:
Mnuchin's claim that this isn't about race is a mnunch of mnonsense. It's absolutely about race.
It's about a president's unwillingness or inability to acknowledge the racial issues behind the kneeling protests.
It's about the implication that black NFL players are earning big money not because of hard work but because predominantly white team owners are giving them the "privilege" of playing.
It's about Trump forcefully condemning black NFL players engaged in peaceful protest while nearly bending over backward to keep from condemning the torch-wielding white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville.
It's about an administration that calls for the firing of NFL players speaking their minds through their actions at work -- actions that don't impact anyone else -- while also putting forth an argument to the U.S. Supreme Court that a Christian baker who refuses to make a cake for a gay wedding is protected by the First Amendment.
So which is it? Is free speech a thing at work or not?
Who knows? This is Lyin' Trump we're talking about, the one who was for peaceful protests in January and then against them this weekend. Maybe it's the time of year. Maybe Trump thinks peaceful protests are fine in the colder months but disreputable when it's hot out.
Or maybe the problem was that this weekend's peaceful protest involved NFL players protesting police treatment of black people and didn't involve a white Christian baker protesting someone's sexuality. Is the fear that Christian bakers might be forced to kneel on cakes during same-sex weddings while the national anthem plays?
I don't know. It's all very confusing.
What I do know is that it feels really good to do free speech at work, so I'm going to keep going.
As much as Trump might not like football players taking a stand on national issues while they're on the clock, I and many others don't like the president needlessly stoking division while he's on our clock.
That's right, we pay Trump's salary. He works for all of us, not the other way around.
And griping about the behavior of football players while rallying crowds of white people wearing cute red baseball caps isn't, as far I'm concerned, in the job description.
Millions of people in Puerto Rico are still without power and cut off from the world in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and one official there described the damage as "apocalyptic." I would prefer that President Trump spent the weekend focused on that humanitarian crisis.
Or rather than attacking the messengers and suggesting a boycott of the country's highest revenue sports league, Trump could have spared a few tweets to call for ideas on easing the tension between police and the black community.
That's what the president is paid to do. Instead, he's hopping on Twitter to "do free speech" during work hours and I, for one, find the free speech he's doing disrespectful to our country and to everything the American flag represents.
To paraphrase one American president, if Trump wants the privilege of being the leader of the United States, he should not be allowed to "disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country)."
Perhaps Trump should fire himself.
If he were black, I bet he would.
(Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune and a noted hypocrisy enthusiast. You can email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @RexHuppke.)