The whole world seems to be obsessing over NFL stars taking a knee when the National Anthem is being played before football games. I haven’t watched football for years, so technically, this decision had little effect on my life. Then, 45 decided to address the issue with his usual lack of finesse. Using vulgar language and making threats that were not his to make, Donald Trump managed to enflame much of the country.
There are those who have decided that these protests are disrespectful of our flag and our military. I have tried to look at this issue from all sides, and I just don’t see the disrespect. Quietly taking a knee to protest the repeated violence committed against African American citizens doesn’t feel disrespectful to me. It feels like a relatively mild way of pointing out the inequities that still exist in our society. When it’s open season on blacks, especially young black men, someone has to stand up. Or kneel down. I see no disrespect in it.
I have read the opinions that these football players are rich, spoiled babies and they have no right to behave this way. Professional athletes do make an obscene amount of money for playing a game. That doesn’t mean their opinions don’t matter. In fact, from where I sit, that money and that exposure means that they have a huge audience to listen to their protests. This makes their point a lot more impactful than all the small marches of 50 or fewer people I see in my hometown.
Statements have been made that these protests aren’t really helping anyone. I hope that bringing unacceptable behavior to light and letting the world see what will and won’t be tolerated will help people. I also hope that the athletes who are protesting by taking a knee are following up their protest with actions to help move our country forward.
I have read a lot about how these protests are disrespecting the military. I don’t see it that way. The military has fought and sacrificed for generations to give American citizens the right of free speech. There have been wars fought in response to dictators who have taken this right away from their people.
In our country, everyone has the right to join the military as long as you fit their physical and ethical criteria. What the military doesn’t do is guarantee you equal rights once you have been released from military duty. I have no idea how many African Americans have fought in wars to protect the American way of life only to come home to be told that way of life didn’t apply to them.
Somehow, there are those who have decided that kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful of the American flag. So far, I haven’t seen anyone burning the flag or abusing it in any way. In fact, corporate marketing shills, including those who market professional sports, have been disrespectful of our flag for years. The blatant disregard of the laws and traditions the regulate how you can and can’t treat the flag has been insidious.
Others have said that it’s disrespectful of the flag and the anthem to kneel. There has been a lot of conversation about the proper way of showing respect for the flag. If it is proper to stand and hold your hand over your heart during the National Anthem, then I believe that everyone watching the game, whether in the stands or on television, should be held to that same standard.
I find it highly ironic that our current occupant of the White House is actually pulling the teams of the NFL, and other sports, together. Teams, including coaches and owners, are linking arms and keeling together in a show of support of the protesting players. 45’s criticism and foul mouth have done more to unify professional athletes than anything else I have seen in my lifetime. I am so glad his toxic bile is backfiring on him. I can only hope that this pattern will continue and all of his hateful rhetoric will have the same boomerang effect.
The one thing that is being said that I wholeheartedly agree with is why has this become such a hot topic of discussion when there are so many other things going on in our country and in the world that need our attention.
If we could just channel this energy into actually helping the victims of the ferocious storms that have pounded so many coastal cities; if we could use some of this fierce debate to work on a Health Care Act that will actually provide care and help to those who desperately need it; or if we could actually address the systemic racism in our country that last year inspired Colin Kaepernick to take a knee during the National Anthem for the first time; then we would really have something worthwhile to talk about.