Donald Trump supports a business's right to discriminate against LGBT people, but not athletes' right to protest during the national anthem, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders affirmed in today's White House press briefing.
"The administration came out in support of the baker's freedom of expression in yesterday's Supreme Court case," NBC's Peter Alexander said to Sanders. "I guess I'm asking, why are athletes' rights to express themselves freely any different than the baker's?"
Sanders replied, "We are pleased with the Supreme Court's decision. The First Amendment prohibits government from discriminating against the basis of religious beliefs, and the Supreme Court rightly concluded that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission failed to show tolerance and respect for his religious beliefs. In this case and others the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously defend the free speech and religious freedom First Amendment rights."
Alexander pressed on, asking, "So if the White House supports the baker's right of free speech, Why doesn't the White House support the players' right to free speech?"
"The president doesn't think that this is an issue simply of free speech," Sanders responded. "He thinks it's about respecting the men and women of our military, it's about respecting our national anthem, and it's about standing out of pride for that."
The Monday Supreme Court ruling in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, who cited religious objections in refusing to provide a cake for a same-sex couple's wedding, actually didn't address Phillips's right to freedom of expression, even though he and his lawyers had cited that. The court did, however, rule that the civil rights commission had shown insufficient respect for his religious beliefs in finding him in violation of the state's antidiscrimination law. But both freedom of expression and freedom of religion are guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The question in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, though, was whether the business could use these freedoms as an excuse to discriminate. The Trump administration had sided with Phillips.
Trump has been sharply critical of pro football players and other athletes who kneel or stay in the locker room during the national anthem to protest racism in the U.S. The National Football League has announced that in the upcoming season, teams will be fined if players kneel during the anthem, but said they can stay in the locker room - something Trump contends is just as disrespectful.
He canceled a visit to the White House by the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, planned for today, because many members of the team declined to attend. Today's event was recast as a "Celebration of America" with patriotic music.
Trump tweeted about the national anthem controversy and the Cakeshop case, and Alexander tweeted his exchange with Sanders.