Sen. Tammy Duckworth called on her service as a veteran to express her support for National Anthem protesters in the wake of the NFL’s new policy mandating players on the field stand for the song.
“One day, our nation’s flag will drape my coffin, just as it did my dad’s and will my husband’s and brother’s,” the Illinois Democrat posted on Twitter and Facebook Friday, along with a photo of her prosthetic legs.
“I will always stand on these legs for the flag and anthem, but it was ALSO my honor to defend people’s right to free speech—including those who choose to #TakeAKnee to express outrage at the glaring disparity in how Americans of different races are treated,” she wrote.
Duckworth was serving in the US Army in Iraq in 2004 when her Black Hawk helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. The attack resulted in the loss of both of her legs. She was awarded the Purple Heart for her injuries.
The senator’s social media posts follow Wednesday’s decision by the football league mandating that players stand for the National Anthem or stay in the locker room during the song. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that teams whose players and personnel do not stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem will be fined by the league.
The new policy comes in the wake of protests the past two seasons, in which some players kneeled during the anthem in protest of systemic racism. The protests sparked fierce backlash, including by President Donald Trump. On Thursday, Trump praised the NFL for doing “the right thing” with the rule, and suggested that players who kneel shouldn’t be in the United States.
“You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem or you shouldn’t be playing. You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country,” Trump said.
While Duckworth did not explicitly mention the new policy, other Democrats in Congress expressed their disdain outright.
“The NFL’s new anthem policy is not a matter of respect for the flag, it is meant to silence those who are using their platform to protest racial injustice in the United States,” California Rep. Ro Khanna tweeted Friday. “This is unacceptable. Players should not be penalized for speaking out for what they believe in.”
Across the aisle, New York Republican Rep. Peter King on Saturday expressed his disdain for National Anthem protesters, suggesting their actions were on par with spouting racial invectives or giving the Nazi salute.
“Disgraceful that @nyjets owner will pay fines for players who kneel for National Anthem,” he tweeted. “Encouraging a movement premised on lies vs. police. Would he support all player protests? Would he pay fines of players giving Nazi salutes or spew racism? It’s time to say goodbye to Jets!”
CNN’s Jill Martin and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.