In the past two weeks in the NFL, various players, coaches, and owners made a statement during the national anthem.

Some teams knelt on the field together. Some stood and linked arms in solidarity. Others decided to skip out on the national anthem entirely, opting to stay in the locker room while the Star-Spangled Banner played throughout a stadium of thousands who came to watch a football game.

We, as Americans, have rights that are unimaginable to those who live in fear of their government.

All Americans possess the right to speak out, to practice a religion of their choosing, to disagree, to bear arms, and yes—to protest. In no way is it my intent to stop people from protesting.

But I believe that there is a time and a place for all things, and I strongly disagree with those who choose to take a knee during our national anthem.

Last year, then-quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers refused to stand during the national anthem, naming police brutality as the reason he decided to sit and then eventually take a knee during the anthem.

Soon, others began to follow suit. On Sunday, Sept. 24, the NFL had hundreds of players and coaches take a knee during the national anthem in protest and three teams opted to stay in the locker room during the national anthem.

My question is: why? Why are they protesting a country and flag that so many have died to defend?

As an American, you have the right to protest me, another individual, or a group, but I believe that in protesting the United States, you are protesting the very principles that protect that right in the first place. It is simply disrespectful.

I fully support every American’s right to exercise the First Amendment. On the other hand, just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

To the men and women who defend our nation tirelessly and to many Americans, the flag is a symbol of patriotism and freedom.

Our service men and women go into foreign countries overrun by terrorism in order to keep Americans—including each and every NFL football player who took a knee—safe from harm. They would sacrifice their lives for yours in the face of danger and they would do it gladly.

Sports have a history of bringing Americans together, not tearing us apart. I am disappointed with some of our professional athletes who have taken hostage what ties every American together: our patriotism.

Why? To prove a point? What is the point? As a nation, we’ve started down a path in which we will let nearly anything divide us, simply because we’ve forgotten what unites us.

I say: play football. Do what you are good at, protest the people you disagree with, and voice your opinion, but do so with respect.

Honor the flag, take pride in being an American, and respect the country that gave you the right to do all of the above in the first place.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) represents the second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached through, and at 3109 Azalea Park Drive, Muskogee, OK, 74401, 918-687-2533 or 202-225-2701