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EDITORIAL: NFL players should drop anthem protests and embrace bipartisan Senate bill on criminal justice reform

The NFL-Donald Trump-national anthem soap opera continued this week as reports indicated the league may impose a rule requiring players to stand during “The Star Spangled Banner.” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a leader among his colleagues, also publicly stated that he would bench any of his players who refused to stand for the anthem.

The owners are free to set the rules, of course. But perhaps it’s also time for the protesting players to turn their symbolic gestures into action, rather than continue to offend a large portion of their audience.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of senators announced they will revive a criminal justice reform bill intended to remedy what many believe are inequities in the system. The sponsors of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act run the ideological gamut and include Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

Among other things, the bill would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent crimes and give judges more sentencing discretion in certain cases. Statistics show that almost half of all federal prisoners are doing time for drug-related offenses. Minority communities are especially affected.

The proposal would also “establish programs to reduce recidivism,” the Washington Free Beacon reports.

A similar bill never got a vote last session, in large part because a handful of senators posturing as “tough on crime” made a ruckus over the proposal. But it’s possible to advocate that the bad guys do their time while also trying to ensure that those who commit less violent acts have an opportunity to become productive members of society once they have atoned for their crimes. This bill is a reasonable attempt to balance those objectives.

“Congress is right to consider whether there may be smarter, more efficient, more humane and more cost-effective ways to address crime while at the same time enhancing public safety,” noted John G. Malcolm and John-Michael Seibler of the Heritage Foundation in a recent op-ed in the Daily Signal.

The effort also received a boost last week when Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner hosted lawmakers for a dinner designed to explore ways to promote criminal justice reform.

The NFL protests started when Colin Kaepernick decided to make a statement about what he perceived as police mistreatment of minorities and a criminal justice system stacked against the underprivileged. Here is a perfect chance for the players to carry on their activism in a more appropriate manner by getting involved politically and using their platform to urge Congress to support a bipartisan reform bill that attempts to address some of their concerns.

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