Indiana state Representative Milo Smith, a Republican, has filed legislation that would require the Indianapolis Colts to offer refunds to fans if players kneel during the playing of the national anthem at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Smith, who represents Columbus, Ind., about 45 miles south of the stadium, told the Indianapolis Star that his bill would allow fans who feel disrespected by players’ protesting to ask for a refund during the first quarter.
“To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it’s not respecting the national anthem or our country,” Smith said. “Our government isn’t perfect, but it’s still the best country in the world and I think we need to be respectful of it.”
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the movement in 2016, when he sat on the bench and then kneeled after a conversation with Army Green Beret Nate Boyer, to bring attention to extrajudicial police killings of citizens and issues of racial and social injustice. A smattering of other players followed Kaepernick’s lead.
The issue had all but died out this season, until President Donald Trump called protesting players “sons of bitches” at a rally in Alabama on Sept. 22.
Two days later, Smith and his daughter were at Lucas Oil when the Colts hosted the Cleveland Browns; numerous players on both teams protested in response to Trump’s words, as did dozens of players around the league that day.
Smith said he was offended, but he wasn’t offended enough that he left the game. It also does not appear that he demanded a refund from the team for the cost of his tickets.
“I’m pretty patriotic, and it didn’t sit right with me,” said Smith.
The legislator’s proposal would not require the Colts to give refunds if visiting-team players kneel, only Indianapolis players.
Smith said his policy is legal because it doesn’t stop players from kneeling.
While the Colts, and the NFL at large, as private employers can ban players from kneeling during the anthem, neither the team nor the league has done so.
Earlier this month, a New Orleans Saints fan filed suit against the team, looking to recoup the cost of his season tickets because he is angered by players protesting.
This isn’t at all the first time Smith has taken a ridiculous stance: as recently as 2014, he played a significant role in advancing a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Smith has known for over 20 years that his own son, Chris, is gay.
Chris Smith was publicly critical of his father at the time of that vote.