Singer John Legend has heaped praise on athletes who have taken a "patriotic" stand by kneeling for the U.S. national anthem to protest racial discrimination.
American footballer Colin Kaepernick sparked a backlash last year (16) when he refused to stand during the national anthem, and the quarterback was dropped by the San Francisco 49ers this summer (17) after bosses chose not to renew his contract.
He remains a free agent, but a number of fellow athletes and celebrities have since also shown their support to Kaepernick, particularly after U.S. President Donald Trump slammed the sportsman as a "son of a b**ch" for his activism at a rally in Alabama on Friday (22Sep17).
Legend was among the stars who blasted Trump for his controversial comments and took a knee himself during a show in Europe over the weekend (23-24Sep17), and now the singer has penned an essay praising his fellow celebrities for standing up for equal rights and free speech.
"The president of the United States loves to drape himself in the symbols of patriotism, but fails to respect the ideals at the core of our Constitution and national identity," he wrote in an essay for Slate.com. "Trump may love the flag, but he doesn't love anything it's supposed to stand for..."
"Protest is patriotic," he added. "Protest has played a critically important role in elevating the voices of the most vulnerable in our nation... If we quell protest in the name of patriotism, we are not patriots. We are tyrants."
Legend went on to insist the ongoing protests are not a reflection of the athletes' disrespect for the U.S. flag or anthem, but rather a rallying cry to fans to pay attention to the issues facing the country.
"Because of them, almost every day of the week, we talk about racial disparities...," he stated. "Because these conversations are necessary for progress. Because these protests are their own form of a pledge-of-allegiance - allegiance to the ideals that are our nation's founding principles, which many heroes have given their lives to defend. They are the definition of patriotism."