By Robert McCullough
To my close friends currently serving in the armed forces and law-enforcement. Who personify honor, integrity, duty, and sacrifice in the highest manner, you are the true heroes of this generation.
Check out the counter opinion to this article here.
Growing up, I played football from grade school well into high school. The friendships, lessons and memories I made will always be a part of who I am. However, my love of the sport and the organization that runs it has been completely tarnished. Look no further than this 2017 season, which has been infected with a great number of players taking a knee, sitting down, staying in their locker rooms, etc. during our national anthem. This is unprofessional, unsportsmanlike, and a complete slap in the face to you, me and the rest of the country.
First, I want to be clear, I support every American who wants to use their First Amendment rights to protest. My mother was an immigrant who came to the United States to escape an oppressive communist government, where the idea of free speech was just a dream. This is not a right I take for granted and is why I will utilize mine to call these athletes out on their behavior and message. I also realize the people protesting may have had different upbringings and backgrounds than I, and may see the world differently.
Again, this isn’t about whether they have the right to kneel. It’s about whether they should be kneeling given the solemn nature of the anthem as well as the time and place it is being conducted. The average American loves this nation, flag and anthem, and has a good reason to be boycotting the NFL.
The power of kneeling
As a team, football players should be out on the field and standing quietly as the anthem plays. If a player doesn’t want to put his hand on his heart, that’s his choice, but he should have enough character to at least stand quietly and understand the solemn nature of what that anthem means to the rest of Americans watching, especially to those who fought and died protecting it.
On Oct.1 of this year the Miami Dolphins prepared to play against the New Orleans Saints in London, England at Wembley Stadium. Three Dolphins players decided to kneel for the American national anthem but rise for the British National Anthem just as several other players did the week prior when the Baltimore Ravens took on the Jacksonville Jaguars. I guess Britain’s history of oppression is not cause for concern?
Kneeling is no small gesture. You’re not showing “solidarity” as they like to frame it. Solidarity is saying, despite our differences, we are Americans first and foremost and will stand up to continue trying to make America as great a place as it can and has been.
The anthem and flag are a symbol of unity and are just a few things we have left in this country that haven’t become politicized. It’s important to understand that the government and laws are separate from the flag. It is not beholden to any political party or race. The flag and our anthem know no partisanship unless we let it.
This issue wouldn’t be as major if the NFL let all its players voice their opinions equally. So why is the NFL so hypocritical with how they treat activism by their players? Either let players be activists or have a hard line stance that they are there to play football. But no, the NFL is clearly more concerned with playing politics. For instance, they refused to let the Dallas Cowboys wear stickers on their helmets to commemorate the deaths of five Dallas police officers working and providing security at a Black Lives Matter protest. But then the NFL turned a blind eye when Colin Kaepernick wore socks which depicted police officers as pigs, and then threatened to fine Titans linebacker Avery Williamson when he wanted to wear cleats honoring those who died on 9/11. When looking at this double standard it becomes clear this isn’t an issue simply about letting players speak their opinions. It is simply a matter of the NFL choosing to play politics.
Respect for sacrifices
Lastly, have the people in support of their protest really taken time to comprehend what our soldiers have sacrificed so they can behave this way? Do they not watch the news and see our people, our countrymen, come home draped in Old Glory? Do they not sympathize with the widow’s who lose their wife or husband in the service of our country both in Law-Enforcement and the military? Have they ever thought about what it would feel like to be the son, daughter, wife or father being handed that folded flag in honor of their loved one’s sacrifice? Can they imagine what it means to a veteran to hear “The Star Spangled Banner” play? World War II veteran Donald Houck explains, “When I hear ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ tears come to my eyes, America is good.”
If you want a country to falter, then divide the people from each other. This is what we are letting happen. This is what we must stop. I encourage everyone to listen to Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” one more time and regain that American spirit. Because, at the end of the day, this isn’t about partisanship, race, class or any other terms we use to divide ourselves. It’s about the phrase “I am an American,” which are the only words worth defining ourselves with.