Memorial Day is about remembering — those who sacrificed their lives for our country and the founding ideas they fought to preserve and protect. So take a moment today to think about all they did for us, whether the memories are personal, the loss of a family member or friend, or more broad, in the toll of lives in faraway places.

There is something poignant in Memorial Day marking the start of summer. Hard not to reflect on the summers missed by the young men and women who served and died, providing more reason to cherish what we have and how they contributed. That includes the freedoms we hold close, and none is more revered than the right to speak freely, this country about honoring the sovereignty of the people and rights of individuals.

Which makes it worth discussing the NFL decision last week to bar protests by players during the national anthem. The policy comes after two seasons, many players on one knee or otherwise expressing solidarity with what moved Colin Kaepernick, then of the San Francisco 49ers, police violence against minorities and economic inequality.

The league framed the policy as a compromise. Players must stand for the anthem and the flag. They also have the option of remaining in the locker room. Violate the policy, and the club will be fined. The league argues that it seeks to remove a “false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic.”

Roger Goodell, the commissioner, and team owners are addressing a public relations problem, fanned by President Trump, among others. Television ratings have declined. Yet it shouldn’t be missed that the league actually sees the players as patriotic in their protests. After all, it describes as a “false impression” that the players are “unpatriotic.”

They are patriotic in their stance. The flag is revered, and so is the anthem. Which is what makes them powerful vehicles for protest. The U.S. Supreme Court confirmed as much in rejecting prohibitions on burning the flag.

Kaepernick and the others did not act lightly. Kaepenick put at risk his career, now out of the league, though the likes of the Cleveland Browns could use him.

Consider the coincidence: The league made its announcement on the same day the Milwaukee police released a police body camera video of the January arrest of Sterling Brown, a player for the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA. A simple parking violation turned into an arrest, the use of a Taser and Brown landing briefly in jail. The video shows Brown, a black man, did nothing to warrant such treatment, the ugliness initiated by police officers.

What concerns the protesting players is real and pervasive. They have been using their platform to shine light on the problem. Isn’t that what we celebrate in the right to free speech? As a private organization, the NFL has the authority to set workplace rules. It has wrapped itself in the patriotism of the military. For their part, the players have held to principles so many have fought and died to protect and who we remember today.