Lucinda Shen
September 25, 2017 AT 08:59 AM EDT

“Trump may love the flag, but he doesn’t love anything it’s supposed to stand for,” wrote singer John Legend in an op-ed supporting NFL players who decided to protest police treatment of African Americans by kneeling during the national anthem.

That comes after a whirlwind weekend in which President Donald Trump encouraged the National Football League to fire or suspend any players who knelt during the anthem, calling the move unpatriotic and “disrespectful.” In response, many NFL players knelt ahead of their games Sunday, with teammates linking arms in a show of solidarity.

While Trump aides have said that the president’s criticism against the protests are not about free speech or race, Legend disagreed in the wide-ranging op-ed criticizing Trump in Slate.

“Protest is patriotic… If we quell protest in the name of patriotism, we are not patriots. We are tyrants,” he wrote, pointing to protests in Selma, Ala. as a turning point in the nation’s history—one that allowed many African Americans to vote.

The NFL protests he continued, “are not some arbitrary statement about a flag,” he wrote. “They are an attempt to educate the public that criminal justice—mass incarceration, lengthy sentences, police brutality—is the civil rights issue of our time.”

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