Flag On The Play !
Timeout! There has been an infraction. Hijacking the National Anthem. There should be sanctions. A penalty should be assessed. Unfortunately, for the life of me, I am just not sure exactly what that should be. But Karma has made an appearance and determined, ironically, that the protest is a complete failure and no further actions will be necessary. What’s that? A failure? Why? Well, for simple reasons. Wrong place. Wrong time. Wrong message.
Without a doubt, trying to address this issue is one of the more difficult subjects I have ever attempted to discuss. Not particularly for the substance of the protest, for I believe that the issue has been overblown and drastically mischaracterized, but because of the inability to listen and discuss any issue whatsoever in this country today. If I were penning this with paper and pen, I would already have a small mountain of crushed inappropriate and unusable comments. Not because they are untrue or unfair, but simply because I know, with a certainty I rarely possess, that it would only add to the inflamed rhetoric that already exists. And hence, my dilemma. How do we discuss the pressing issues of our time if everyone is intimidated and in abject fear of the repercussions of their opinions? And this, unfortunately, is reflected in the very core of this so-called protest itself.
I think the perfect example of this is the situation surrounding the Pittsburg Steelers Alejandro Villanueva, a West Point graduate and a platoon leader in Afghanistan who received a bronze star for valor. He memorably stood by himself with his hand over his heart during the National Anthem while his team waited off the field. He then movingly explained why he could not turn his back on the flag and apologized for botching the teams ‘plans’ and making them look bad. Has our country devolved into a place where we make other people look bad by following our own hearts? He could never make someone else look bad by his own actions. They could only do that to themselves. There was a miscommunication or this may never have happened. They had a ‘team meeting’ where they decided that people who loved their country and wanted to display that to the fans would join with the team in their ‘protest’, and deny themselves that luxury. That, in the name of unity those that disagreed would join in a show of ‘solidarity’. There was no display of freedom of speech. That would have been refreshing. There was no mention of character or integrity. That would have been unthinkable. I did not see unity in their actions. I saw intimidation. I saw what we call ‘bullying’ in our society today. I cannot speak for these players, but my life experience has taught me some invaluable lessons. Doing things that you do not believe, even to help another, is destructive. An individual of integrity has no alternative except to do what is right. Their life is an example to anyone and everyone. It is the only way to instill integrity into our society. And that is something that we need more than ever right now. If your friends or teammates do not want you to be true to self, then they are not your friends. And there is no real ‘team’.
Donald Penn of the Oakland Raiders has been quoted as saying “I’m not going to do it next week. I didn’t want to do it this week”. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints was reported saying: “I will always feel that if you are an American the National Anthem is the opportunity for us all to stand up together, to be unified and to show respect for our country.” And yet they both acted in direct opposition to their own interests. For ‘the team’. I see little reason to respect someone who doesn’t have the strength of character to stand up for his own values. If they cannot respect their own ideals, why would you ever believe that they will respect yours?
FREEDOM OF SPEECH
There are many aspects to this difficult issue. It is complicated and fraught with emotion, and anger, and of course, hatred. They say that there is none, but their words fall on deaf ears. Why? Because they have spoken other words, and they have taken other actions. I can see your passion. And I feel your pain. But please, do not insult my intelligence. There is much hate in everything you do. And that is why your protest has not been successful. America is holding on by a thread, but will still not support any movement based on ignorance and hatred. Do not look to America to change. You need to look inward, and heal thyself first.
Let’s see if we can break this down into some manageable concepts. The obvious starting point is their ‘freedom of speech’. It is startling to me that people, even today, with all of our education and assumed intelligence, understand so little of the concept. Then, of course, that may be due to the fact that anything even slightly related to fundamental political knowledge has been surgically removed from our educational system. And I cannot accept that this has happened completely by accident. The changes have been comprehensive. It has happened much too quickly and it has happened by design. Add the fact, that besides the basics of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, that this political knowledge is the single most important information to being a capable and competent member of our political system, and I find myself at a complete loss as to why. Why do we not teach civics? How can our citizens know both their rights AND responsibilities if they are not instructed as to what that means? And how about the Constitution? When was the last time little Sally came home and recited it for you? What of the structure and intent of our government? We laugh about it all the time when you see a quick piece on the news, where we hear that only a quarter of adults can name all three branches of government (Annenberg/August/2017). We laugh or shake our heads and move on to the next irrelevant piece of news, as our great country continues to dissolve before our eyes. And you do not want to even consider how many people do not know about our houses of Congress, or the number of representatives, or even the names of their local representatives, or how about the makeup or reason for the Supreme Court. 30% of Americans can’t even name the vice president. And that poll was taken when it was Biden. This is not a game of trivial pursuit. This is fundamental to the success of our political process. This is highly troubling. And this is the primary reason it is not working. And why are we not teaching political history or even American history itself? They are virtually non-existent in our educational system today. Did you vote to have this done? Did anyone ever ask your opinion? Do you even realize that this is the case? Do you not find this a matter of concern? You should.
But what of freedom of speech? Contrary to the misinformed public ( but I repeat myself ), most people believe that freedom of speech means that they can say whatever they want, whenever they want and wherever they want, as well as to whomever they please, under any circumstances they choose. Actually, that would be a huge ‘no you cannot’ on all five counts. Please do not misunderstand. We should all cherish the right to speak their thoughts as free citizens of what is inarguably the greatest country to ever exist upon the face of this earth. No one loves this country more than I do. I understand and embrace the concept of freedom of speech and especially the intricate relationship it played in the conception and founding of this republic we call America. But, as with all rights and privileges, there is responsibility and obligation that comes with such a benefit, and I acknowledge and accept at least some restrictions upon that right. That is something these ‘freedom of speechers’ tend to neglect in their rush to take their place in the spotlight. Freedom of Speech is NOT an absolute. There are things that we are NOT permitted to say at specific times. I assume that everyone knows that they cannot yell ‘fire!’ in a crowded theatre. Unless there is one, of course. This is not unreasonable. And you cannot use certain words or symbols today, especially since the invention of what we call ‘hate speech’. This becomes a grey area when it comes to reasonable. Not because what is said is not offensive. And no one understands the power of words as much as yours truly. But because freedom is built upon, well . . . . freedom. Freedom is complicated. Freedom is messy. Restricting words is restricting freedom. It is censorship. It is wrong. Words. Books. Tyranny. It is a historical progression. Those that do not know AND understand history, are doomed to repeat it. But it is not just about words. More specifically, you have to think about context. There are many times it is inappropriate to voice your personal opinion, irrespective of your imagined right to do so. The most appropriate example that jumps to mind is the fact that all of us, no matter where we work, have restrictions placed upon us as to what we can do while working as an employee. This can be any company, and at any time. I realize these three hundred pound children have rarely, if ever, not been treated like prima donnas because of their celebrity and innate physical talents, but they need to flex their minds in this instance, and stop acting like the spoiled children that they portray. When I work for a company, I have accepted and agreed to abide by the rules and procedures set out by that company. While I have the right to bring suggestions to the management as to how they administer their organization, I do NOT get to set policy or dictate anything at all really. It may seem unfair at times, but it is not my company. I did not invest the thousands of hours to develop or the capital to support the endeavor. If I ever do not agree with their actions or intent, I have the ultimate alternative to leave the employ of such a company and go work somewhere else, or better yet, to start my own concern, and compete with the company for the business dollars available. But I DO have the right to complain, and the freedom of speech to protest. And the company also has the freedom of speech to disagree. As well as the freedom to terminate my employment. Freedom is not supposed to be about ME. It was not made for just YOU. It was meant to be about US. Everyone. All the time. No exceptions.
Contrary to the direction this country has taken over the last few decades, the NFL players are fundamentally nothing more than employees. They have a code of conduct to follow, and can be terminated for just cause for many reasons. The players do NOT have the freedom to do drugs, even when legal. There are restrictions. They have curfews. They have regulations as to personal conduct. They have to show up for practice and games. They do NOT have the freedom to arbitrarily decide for themselves if and when they will play. That is the purview of the coach and management. The inmates should not be allowed to run the institution. They represent the company, in this case, the entire NFL, which if anyone has forgotten, is the NATIONAL Football League. This is a NATIONAL sport, and the country, like it or not, is represented around the world by these players. The league, as an entity, has an absolute right to set rules of conduct, and if any player disagrees with said policy, they have the right to look for work elsewhere. The fact that Goodell, and most of the individual owners, do not have a shred of backbone to set those standards, is a poor commentary on the leagues’ integrity and character. It is both ironic, and curious, that the same people that stood in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street AGAINST the 1% now inexplicably stand in unison with nothing but 1%ers AGAINST the very soul of the greatest country anyone has ever experienced. You don’t agree? Then name another political system that has been more successful, and helped more people, and given more opportunity than the country we are lucky enough to be a part of today. It does not exist. And it never has.
Did you know that freedom of speech was not even intended for the ‘common’ man? It was crafted expressly for the only media that existed at the time. The Press. It was specifically to combat what previously existed in England at the time. You could be arrested for sedition for writing unfavorably about your government. As with much of our Constitution, our forefathers developed articles in direct response to the evils they believed existed in the land from whence they all originated. So too with the freedom of religion, which was never meant to deny money to denominational education or the display of a crèche at Christmastime in the town square. It was again, specifically designed so the government could not coerce you to join a religion, such as the Church of England, where every citizen was forced to join and pay a tithe, under threat of prosecution. Something else never, ever mentioned by our schools, our media or our representation. One of the greatest concepts ever enshrined in any Constitution, and it has been perverted by opportunist ideologues to the point that it is almost unrecognizable. It makes you wonder who is driving the bus.
Freedom of speech also does not allow you to speak whatever and wherever you please. You cannot give a speech in a crowded restaurant or at someone else’s paid event. You cannot force yourself into someone else’s home, whether physically or through the fact that you work in radio or television, and proceed to instruct them on your particular expertise or ’cause du jour’. But they try. Oh, how they try. You can be removed and possibly arrested. That is private property, and that is not your right. Even on public property, you do not have the right at any time to speak. It is required to obtain a permit. You should never be denied, unless for just cause, and then, and only then, you can exercise your perceived right to express yourself. And that, my friends, brings us to the first real point of contention.
What is it that we see as we watch the theatrics on the field during this so-called ‘protest’? We see a large group, of predominantly very large men, who, without exception, receive very large salaries. They are paid to play a child’s game, and they do this very well I might add. They are kneeling down on the field, during the National Anthem, to voice their concerns about what they perceive to be racial inequality and injustice in our society. And I ask myself, why are they doing this? What are they trying to prove? What can they possibly hope to accomplish?
This whole issue started when Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the playing of the National Anthem. It was supposed to be in protest of racial oppression after several shootings of black Americans. There was no information. There was no explanation. Actually, the protest started a few weeks previous, when he sat on the bench instead of standing or kneeling. The lack of attention pressured him to change his strategy. In this he had help, and we will discuss that in a moment. The protest has evolved into a NFL players campaign for social justice, and devolved into nothing but criticism of the president and their lamenting that they had no ‘intent’ to disrespect flag or country. And that stands as a prime example of people who have no real focus or capability to stage a relevant protest.
Supposedly, the catalyst for the demonstration of ‘ solidarity ‘ within the NFL was to bring attention to police brutality and racial inequality. Colin Kaepernick has become the symbol of that movement. And where is he now? No one really knows. While we all know his name, he has attained a certain measure of irrelevance. He is suing the league. He believes there is a ‘conspiracy’ against him. There seems to be just a little paranoia as well as a small self-esteem issue at play here. Did he not realize that there could be repercussions for his actions? He anticipated nothing. And he has accomplished nothing. Colin had an issue with focus. He was completely absorbed with himself and his protest. He dismissed or forgot about the great opportunity this ‘horrendous’ country has placed before him. And he didn’t fix a thing. Not a damn thing. This from an individual making millions of dollars to play a child’s game. Go figure. He is up for GQ’s ‘man of the year’. Not a surprise. We live in a country that rewards feelings, even when incapable of accomplishment. The protest has fizzled. It is in the news daily, but it has accomplished nothing. The dialogue he glibly declared would be started has never materialized. He is taking care of business. Personal business. His name recognition and celebrity soar. And racial inequality? It remains as it was. Waiting for substantive debate. Waiting for men of integrity and intelligence to step up and address these issues. These men will never come from Washington. Or the NFL. It hurts to say it. The opportunity here was great. The motivation and response, on their part, is rather inept and insignificant. But I guess it makes them ‘feel’ good. They really believe that they are actually doing something of substance. How wrong they are. How sad it is.
The Flag, and the Anthem, do not just represent the government. Or the military. It represents the country. It represents the people. All the people. It represents the ideals and the hopes for the future. The American Dream. The Great American Experiment. Equality. When you disrespect the Anthem, you disrespect all of these things and so many more. How can these people not realize this? The things that they point to exist, undeniably. But not to the extent that they proclaim. And yet it is such a small part of America. This is inarguable. Opportunity is shrinking, but it is not America that is making that so. Don’t get me wrong. There are many aspects to our system of governing that leave much to be desired. But these wrongs are NOT an institutional part of the system. And this country does NOT deserve the disrespect it has received over the issue. I know many like to say that it is institutionalized, but they are wrong, and their position is not demonstrable to any real degree. The weaknesses in the system come from ourselves. We elect inferior representation, who institute inferior laws which produce grossly inferior results. We appoint judges who do not agree with or believe in this country or the Constitution that drives it. Even presidents. It should never be their ideology or personal opinion that drives our halls of justice. It should be only the Constitution, which they have sworn to uphold, irrespective of their own personal beliefs. We have much too large a group of these judges and representatives who have defaulted on that promise, and we are all the worse for it.
They say that they mean no disrespect to our Anthem, our Flag, and our Country, but their actions seem to indicate otherwise. Their intent, as with much in our society, is irrelevant. If you shoot me, whether or not by accident, do I not feel pain, do I not bleed? Actions have consequences. But today, if we say an ill-considered word or an inappropriate phrase, we are immediately termed a racist or a sexist or whatever the ‘label du jour’ may be. Intent is never a consideration unless it is by way of an excuse to whitewash someone we agree with, politically or otherwise. And so it is with this. They had no ill intent. And yet, MILLIONS of people have voiced concerns, discomfort, and downright opposition in no uncertain terms to their actions. And do they apologize for an effort, ill-conceived and implemented? Of course not! They link arms in ‘solidarity’, and like the petulant children they are, they point to our President and in unison cry that it is his fault and he started it. This would never have happened without HIM! And they would be wrong once again. It is too bad this is not baseball. They would be batting a perfect 1.000. A negative 1.000 but hey, a thousand is a thousand. It is still perfect, is it not? The fact is that, while he has not handled the situation in a way I would have recommended, this was not his doing. He is nothing but a mirror of the American people, and they are not happy. No, this is completely at the feet of Colin Kaepernick, and ultimately, the players themselves. If Colin, and those that joined him, would have been critical thinkers, they would have realized at some point, preferably before taking actions, that this would be the inevitable result. But they are not thinkers, they are football players. If the protest was never undertaken, or better yet, if it was done properly and appropriately in the right venue, at the right time, there would have been no backlash, no comments from the President, and no reason to lament intent. I would respect the players much more if they would step up and take responsibility for their actions, but that is something that is becoming very rare, indeed, in this country today. It is always someone else’s fault, isn’t it?
They have countered that it has started a dialogue about the issues, and is that not a good thing? The resulting ‘Conversation’ will bring about unity and understanding. No? The problem is that I simply do not see that happening. It has been almost a year and a half, and I have to ask, where is that dialogue? Where is any kind of debate or discussion taking place? I see nothing but a sky full of tweets sent off onto the airwaves by respective twits, from angry and confused players, team and league officials that wish it never happened, outraged citizens and of course, our unique and unpredictable President, that has allowed a golden opportunity to slip through his fingers, where he could have used the situation to create a monumental teaching moment, making it difficult to criticize his actions instead of increasing the division that already exists in the country over the issue. So the whole reason for this protest in the first place, to bring change through dialogue, has never materialized, and that points to the reality that it all was pretty unsuccessful, and achieved nothing except to INCREASE the division and simply create another opportunity to hate, as if we actually need a reason anymore. This is no longer a country that wishes to resolve issues. Rather we enjoy creating them. More is the pity.
All of the disrespect directed towards America and its ideals is demonstrably misguided and simply wrong. The system is not corrupt, and it has never been. Individuals, on the other hand, can certainly be corrupted, and you will find this to be true in every case. They are the cause and source of every inequality and miscarriage of justice in our country. The obvious hatred these people, both the demonstrators and those that distribute these miscarriages of justice, have for America, is disturbing and prophetic. The destruction of our system will inevitably mean an end to all the opportunities that we have worked so hard for, and are available today, which have taken hundreds of years to bring to fruition. They will put an end to the very thing they profess to want. When America is no more, there will be nothing to replace it. The protesters will find themselves asking ‘ what have we done? ‘
We try to understand these misguided souls, as they vent their fears and frustrations over the treatment some people have received at the hands of a perverted lady justice. They understand so little of the concept of America. They need to be a part of the evolution of justice in this great land to improve the end result. Instead, they are becoming instrumental in the destruction of that system, to their own detriment. They do not realize, as they disrespect my country, they disrespect me. Who knows, maybe they do understand, and that is their goal. But when you totally disrespect something or someone, you only create a distrust and disrespect in return. How do you ever envision a better place when all you do is destroy, and hate. Hate is the great destroyer. It destroys everything in its path, and it does so from the inside out. They use hate to destroy opposition today. It will be used to destroy themselves tomorrow. Unfortunately, in this case, Tomorrow does in fact come.
I really resent the liberal media for continually making this a racial issue. While race is certainly an integral part of this issue, I choose to not talk of this in those terms. The judicial system has inequalities for all of its people. The corruption that exists within is pointed towards those of different ideologies or class, and yes, that may single out minorities to a larger degree in some instances, but it is absolutely misguided to point to that as the main focus. When the NFL does not have enough minority coaches, it is termed racist. The NFL is a predominately minority sport. Is that racist? By their simplistic definition, it certainly is. Should we hire fewer minorities in the name of balance and equality? Of course not. The best players should get the opportunity to play. But we will always have people in power, whether it is in the NFL or our society, or our government, that will not be objective and will make choices, whether it be policy or in hiring another individual that is based solely on personal preference and ideology and dare I say it, philosophy. There are people that create bad philosophies as well as positive ones. There are people who will hire a man over a woman. But please be realistic. Today there are almost as many people that will hire the woman instead, irrespective of their abilities. Ever try to find a job when you are overweight, or old, or Hasidic, or Goth, or an immigrant? And yes, minorities also. But that is not America, and if you say it is, then you are mistaken. The wheels of democracy are slow to turn, but turn they do, and the results are inarguable. Slavery has been abolished. Both minorities and women have been given the right to vote, and today have every opportunity to live a life they choose. No country has ever welcomed immigrants to their shores in the numbers and diversity this country has. And all arguments to the contrary are undeniably weak and will never hold up under the light of reason. Don’t agree? Give it your best shot!
So exactly where is this dialogue of which they speak? And even as I utter these words even more questions push their way into my cluttered mind. Why is there no ‘dialogue’? And even though they have failed in their initial attempt, why do they not put their efforts into creating that discussion from another direction? People ARE listening. They may not be happy and they may not be particularly impressed by your antics to this point, but they are listening. Where is the engagement? Is no one thinking of other alternatives and opportunities to turn this around? Where is your leadership? What is your plan? What is the next step? Alas, I mentioned that these are not great thinkers. They do not have a clue what they are doing. That is what happens when you have no real philosophy of life and you do not consider your actions. When you can do little more than ‘feel’ and lead with your heart and your emotions. And that rarely, if ever, results in anything of substance. I, for one, would love to have a real and involved debate on their issues. I am passionately troubled and intrigued by their concerns. I am captivated and obsessed with the concept of equality, and how to achieve it. They have done nothing in furthering the debate. The discussion should not be about racial inequality but in the concept of inequality itself. When the issue of equality for all is addressed, racial equality will inevitably be a part of that exchange. Anything less, and there will continue to be confusion, frustration, and failure. I would love to see a ‘Conversation’ that deals with facts and reality instead of those emotions that simply get in the way of resolution. That hate we see throughout our society today? That does not come from thinking. Hate does not come from philosophy. It comes invariably from blind emotions, and it does not depend on ignorance or misinformation. You only need to emote to hate. It has never been otherwise.
So let’s create that dialogue. Let’s look at other alternatives. Stop trying to hijack the NFL to achieve your goals. You are trying to create change without effort. You think that your celebrity and empty words will be enough? How has that worked so far? Use that celebrity for once to accomplish something huge. Dig into those deep pockets of yours and put your $$$ where your mouth is. Show all of us out here how much you really care about this issue. Bring life to the Conversation. It is not easy to be a professional football player. It takes time and effort and dedication. Why would you think this will be any different? This will be the hardest thing that you may ever try to do. It will not be easy. There will be people that disagree, often inappropriately. But if you really, really want to do this? Then climb down out of your ivory towers and put up or shut up. We all wish you success, but really don’t think you can do it. Show us you can. Prove us wrong. Prove to yourself that you can do it. Time will be the final judge. Please do not misinterpret my words. I know that many of you do wonderful things in the community. And the things you do are admirable and important. And not to diminish your actions, but we are not talking about just showing up and throwing a ball around with some kids and making donations. Again, I respect those efforts to help some people, but we are talking the whole country here. Not tens or even hundreds but thousands if not millions of individuals can be impacted if you are able to achieve even a modicum of success with your efforts. You have no obligation, but if I remember right, you guys started all this. What are you going to do now? Take your ball and go home? What you do next will reflect on your character and your integrity. It’s your call. What’s it going to be?
WRONG PLACE WRONG TIME
It is really simple. Wrong place. Wrong Time. I do not care what you are protesting (and I really don’t). I do not care if your protest is valid (and in this case, it is highly questionable). The fact remains that you have absolutely NO right to initiate a protest while you are ‘on the clock’. You are nothing more than an employee, no matter how much money you make, and irrespective if you deserve it. You are wearing a ‘uniform’. This ‘platform’ is not yours to control or to use for your own self-aggrandizement or personal agenda. Eric Wood of the Buffalo Bills commented that “we also have a lot of intelligent men on our team that if they weren’t in a football uniform they would probably be speaking their mind and highly successful in anything they would be doing anyway and their voices would be heard”. Exactly. Where are those intelligent men? Who are they? Why are we not listening to THEM? You need to get them to the forefront of your protest. Let’s get them involved and listen to them and get started in a new direction. Get off your knee. Take off your uniform. Get out of the view of the camera, at least on game day. You need to clock out and remove yourself from the stadium. That is truly where your freedom of speech lies. You are not a spokesman for the NFL. You are an individual. Skip a party. Rent a hall. Make a speech. Bring your teammates. Have that dialogue. Write a book. Make a movie or a commercial. Create that dialogue. Go speak on some talk shows. Use social media. Talk in companies and schools. Use that celebrity. Show us that you really care. Give us the opportunity to support you. Or not. But don’t throw it in our faces. Don’t disrespect the flag and the country. That may not have been the intent, and yet it is the reality. You can deny it all you want, and yet America sees it for what it is. I have read multiple comments from various players around the league. They speak of unity. They talk of love. They talk of fixing division and everyone getting along. How is that working out? You have alienated MILLIONS of people. That is fact, not opinion. Your protest is basically a complete failure because you had no foresight and no vision. Just a wish, built on a hope and a prayer, nothing but a puff of smoke. It’s been well over a year now. Where is the dialogue that was promised as the goal of your actions? The only thing being discussed is the players themselves, the team owners, the league, and the President.
It is important that you stop talking about the problem from a black perspective. Do you know ANYTHING of our history? How about the injustices suffered by the American Indian? The Chinese, the Irish, the Italians, the Scandinavians, the Vietnamese? Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop being a victim. Inequality has been around for a long time. Injustice knows no color. Let’s fix it! If you do not want to discuss this as an American, to solve a problem that affects ALL Americans, then you can talk to yourself, and live in a reality where your opinions actually have value, but only for you. If you want my attention and support, then you need to engage, and listen, and think, and discuss. You need to really want to have that dialogue, that ‘Conversation’. You intimate that your concerns are for all people of color. Please remember, white individuals are people of ‘color’ as well, and they suffer the same oppression that you do. White is not only a color, it is the ultimate mixing of ALL colors. Just something to consider as you attempt to dismiss half of our population.
Michael Bennett with the Seattle Seahawks said “at the end of the day it’s about coming together and collaborating and figuring out how to unite people” OK. Don’t say it. Just do it. Figure it out, or get someone who can. We all need to listen. We all need to think. Green Bay Packer Aaron Rogers commented that “today was about using our platform to promote love and unity and acceptance and togetherness”. I am a huge fan of Aaron. It is uncomfortable to criticize him, and yet I have no choice. You do not promote love with hate. Please stop talking about unity. You are not united. Many of your fellow players have voiced their concerns, and their lack of support, and yet join ranks with you to create an appearance of ‘solidarity’. From my perspective, I see only coercion, and intimidation and fear of retribution. You create a false ‘unity’ with forcing your teammates to show solidarity when they do not agree. You take away their freedom of speech by not allowing them to choose to be different. And you display togetherness with your teammates but you create the opposite within America. Can anyone point to a time in history where 32 groups of completely diverse individuals, from any walk of life, each 50 strong, have been in complete agreement about anything? Feel free to believe what you will, but please allow some of us to not participate in your particular delusion. You guys are as disengaged as congress. You live in your own little world. Do you even listen to yourselves? You need to feel less and think more of your own words. Your words look like words of wisdom on the printed page but the reality you have created is a much different animal. I listen to your words. Unfortunately, I see your actions. They are not in harmony.
And I hear from so many others, speaking of love and unity. But I do not see it. I read the words of Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks as he proclaims “we believe in love. The only way we can defeat hate is by loving people. That’s what we believe in”. Really? Can we see some examples of that? Except that I just finished reading a mountain of comments criticizing and demeaning the President of the United States. You need to stop talking about love. You need to start thinking about what the word means, and practicing that which you all preach. You wish to stand in solidarity, as a group? I will then judge you as a group. You do not like Mr. Trump. And you do not just dislike him. It is obvious that, as that group, you actually hate him, and if you truly believe in love, then you can start with the President. When ya gonna direct some o’ dat love in the President’s direction? You do realize that love only works on those people that you don’t particularly like, and not on those that agree with you, right?
Don’t tell me that you love your teammates. That is easy. Don’t tell me that you love America. That is unprovable. Start by loving Donald Trump. And if you cannot do such a thing, then you are a hypocrite if you do not even try. That, my friend, is why racial inequality exists in this country today, even if not to the degree that many erroneously believe that it does. Because you hate. And I am not talking about the other guy. Just look in the mirror. Yeah. That guy. Recognize and accept that you DO hate. And then start to work on it. The problems that plague us in our country will never go away on their own. They cannot be legislated away. There will be no intervention from any god. It has all been said before, by thousands of philosophers. It is believed by many. It is practiced by oh so few. The answer actually is love. Real love. Genuine love. Sincere love. Honest love. Not love spoken. Love practiced. And we all need to practice. That’s how you get good at something.
LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills commented “Be a President. Be respectful, man. Us Americans, we’re together. Stop trying to divide us.” He may not be the President you wished for. He may say things that we both wish he would not. But many people also felt that way about President Obama. If he is, in fact, disrespectful, could it be because he perceives disrespect from YOU? And please do not try and speak for America. You cannot even talk for your own teammates. Your protest has alienated and divided millions. Or are those that disagree with you NOT Americans? Trump may, in fact, be divisive, but in this instance, the majority of the responsibility is all on you.
Von Miller of the Denver Broncos made the statement that “we felt like president trumps speech was an assault on our most cherished right: freedom of speech.” This comment, and many more like it, has become the mantra around the league. Most cherished right? If only that were true. To cherish a right is to believe everyone has the same right. Where is your support for the President to enjoy and express that same right? There is a quote that is fundamental to this particular issue. There are various versions and has been attributed to Voltaire although the best know version may have come from historian Evelyn Beatrice Hall. In any case, it is the concept that actually holds value.
“I wholly disapprove of what you say — and will defend to the death your right to say it.”
THAT is someone who cherishes the right. A right for all, especially when their perceptions are different from your own. If you do not entertain opposition, if it is not allowed to see the light of day, then how can we ever hope to learn, and grow, and find peace? Are you so weak and frail that you cannot bear to hear words spoken against you? If you are not, in fact, a ‘son-of-a-bitch’, then there is no reason to even pay attention to his words. But if he is right? That would be a different matter, would it not? Have you no confidence in self? Have you no integrity? Can you take no criticism, even if unfairly spoken? The President is taking so much more than you, on a daily basis. He is not crying about it. Your response, and those around the league make me at least consider the possibility that he just may have struck a nerve.
Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks quipped “there isn’t liberty and justice for all. We were drowned out by the noise of people disagreeing. Patriots fans were disrespectful to us and that’s hypocrisy.” What an amusing turn of events. I would have to acknowledge that what they did was possibly inappropriate, but who is to say what they actually believe? To prove hypocrisy you need to show conflicting statements and intent. In this case, there are conflicting statements. By Richard. And there is an intent, borne by his words and actions on the field. He changed the rules for himself and his compatriots and refuses to bestow on others that which he claims for himself. And now he is upset because others are following his lead. It is the only hypocrisy I see here. Remember, this game is for the fans and NOT the players. The fans have no other venue to voice their own protest. But YOU do. They made their choice. It is commonly known as ‘freedom of Speech’.
And finally, we have a somewhat inappropriate narrative from a Washington Redskin, Josh Norman: “if somebody comes on your front porch and takes a piss, as a man what are you going to do? Sit there and watch him pee? Or are you going to step outside and be, like, hey, what are you doing, sir? You’re on private property. You gotta get off, or we’ll make you get off.” I would not call it articulate, and it IS a bit vulgar, and yet he paints a vivid picture to attempt to prove a point. In reality, he gives me the opportunity to make one as well. I believe what he says is surprisingly true. You have to react when someone does something that impacts your personal interests. But I look at all of this from a different direction. You, sir, and everyone who agrees with your protest, are pissing on MY porch. You are pissing on MY flag and MY country. I feel disrespected. I am disappointed in your ignorance. And yes, I have anger as well. But I have my own freedom of thought which directs my freedom of speech. None of you get to decide what that will be. You can attempt to convince me otherwise, but you have done nothing to that end at this point. I am listening. Millions of Americans agree with me. And a final exclamation point. You pissed on MY porch. It ain’t YOUR porch. You only WORK there. When you ultimately understand that, we may just begin to create change.
Having said all of this, I have reserved some comments for the very end of this monologue. I like to think of myself as someone that is open to viewpoints that are diverse and contrary to what I have come to believe. I know there will be many that will not agree with much of what I have written. But I am passionate about my beliefs. And truly believe it is important to listen. And contemplate criticism. And sometimes even make changes to my own private reality. It is one of the really interesting things about putting together an article, that you have an opportunity to learn. It is somewhat difficult to learn or grow if all you do is listen to your own circle of friends, a single group opinion, or worse yet, just yourself. Going through the process of researching an issue, and ultimately researching that research, gives you perspective. It gives information. It creates a myriad of questions in your head, and it inevitably brings change, at times subtle and at times sometimes surprisingly so. And so it was with this undertaking. This is a huge issue. I apologize somewhat for the length, and it barely touches on only a couple of related points. It could have been a hundred times as much. It is monumental in both scope and importance to the country I love. In any case, when I began my little diatribe, I was convinced that Colin and the players were completely wrong, and I must admit that my position has not changed drastically. And yet I do not look at all of this in exactly the same way as I did initially. There are extenuating circumstances. There has been movement, at least on my part. A miniscule-conversion, if you will. All because of a single individual. An ex-football player. An ex-Green Beret. A kindred spirit of sorts. Someone who I have come to respect, and would welcome him as a friend. Someone who I met through the written word. A man named Nate Boyer.
I never heard of Nate before this issue surfaced. Actually, not until recently. I am at a loss why this narrative was not brought to light during all the negative discourse. I fail to comprehend the incompetency of whatever strategy these players have for their actions. He moved me, and I have to believe that he would have moved others as well. I am continually confused and frustrated. They once again appear clueless. They really need to get some leadership. But a little background on Nate. In 2004 he worked in the Darfur region of the Sudan, where he said that he witnessed genocide firsthand. He worked refugee camps, where he came to see real examples of people who are oppressed, and experience injustice and inequality at a level the players should be grateful they will never experience. A year in Darfur may give them some real enlightenment as to what they protest. Nate said that he “joined the Army upon returning to the U.S. because I believed people like that were worth fighting for. De Oppresso Liber (‘To Free the Oppressed’) is the Army Special Forces motto, and the reason I wanted to become a Green Beret. I didn’t enlist to fight for what we already have here; I did it because I wanted to fight for what those people didn’t have there: Freedom.” He said all of these things and more in an open letter to Colin Kaepernick when he heard of his attempts at protest. He ended his letter with the wish “I look forward to the day you’re inspired to once again stand during our national anthem. I’ll be standing right there next to you. Keep on trying … De Oppresso Liber.”
It turned out that Colin actually saw the letter and contacted Nate. It caused them to arrange a meeting where they discussed America and the honoring of the Anthem. I do not know the content of their conversation, but would have welcomed the chance to be a fly on the wall during that conversation. In any case, it turns out that it was Nate who discussed alternatives to sitting out the Anthem, and came up with what ultimately came to be what we see today, the ‘taking of a knee’. He relates in an interview that “We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammates,” Boyer says. “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, to show respect. When we’re on a patrol, you know, and we go into a security halt, we take a knee, and we pull security.” He continued “you know, he asked me to do it with him. And I said, ‘Look, I’ll stand next to you. I gotta stand though. I gotta stand with my hand on my heart. That’s just– that’s just what I do and where I’m from.” “I got called a lotta things from both sides. I was told I was a disgrace to the Green Beret by a couple Green Berets, one of ’em I was friends with,” Boyer says. “And that hurts, you know? It really does. But then I also had a lot of people in the military and people in Special Forces that said, ‘Man, I hadn’t really thought about that before. And I think you’re onto something.'”
I was moved by their exchange. I appreciate that Colin not only read Nate’s letter, but responded and met with him. And took some advice, from someone who did not fundamentally agree with his ideas. He is still misguided and simply wrong in the actions he took. And I disagree with Nate as well that this was truly an alternative. There is no way to respect our flag with any sign of disrespect, no matter your intent. If there is something for me to take away from this is that things are rarely as they seem. I am angry with myself for not looking at this differently, right from the beginning. In my defense, Colin’s attitude was not beneficial to his cause. It caused me to not question things as I should. But that is one of the major flaws with his plans. Colin, and the rest of the players, need to stop giving a lecture to America. They need to create that dialogue they keep talking about. Without it, there will be no change. They have to stop the hatred of America, and it most assuredly is there. They have to realize and acknowledge, that when they disrupt the Anthem, they disrespect the flag. When they disrespect the President, they disrespect the country. Do not point to other presidents and other individuals. This is about YOU and your desire to facilitate change. Step up and be the bigger person. Listen. Really listen. Discuss and debate. Consensus is difficult, but it is possible. Leave your emotions at the door. Bring that unity that you all talk of. Bring that love you profess. If you do not, you will find nothing for your efforts. Stop being part of the problem. You need to be a part of the solution. You can be. It is possible. If you really want it.
Nate followed up with a second letter a year later, well after their meeting. He was obviously frustrated that nothing is being accomplished. He echoes much of America as he says, “Simply put, it seems like we just hate each other; and that is far more painful to me than any protest, or demonstration, or rally, or tweet. This doesn’t even seem to be about right or wrong, but more about right or left. Today it feels like this national divide isn’t even really about the Anthem, or the Flag, or kneeling, or sitting, or fists in the air. It’s not about President Donald Trump, it’s not about Colin Kaepernick, and it’s not about the military or even police brutality. It feels like it’s about winning.” And that was the real failure of this protest. It has never progressed to that dialogue. It is not about equality at any level. It is about personal agendas and blind and naked hatred. Many of the participants don’t care about racial anything. In fact, many of them welcome it for it feeds into their own goals. We have to break the cycle. There is no other choice.
I have come to respect Nate Boyer. I must admit that I disagree with as much as I agree as to his comments. But he is a man of passion and a man of integrity. We need more Nates in this country to even begin the process of change. The knee was not and is not the answer. And I have also come to respect the passion and the concern of Colin and his players. In many ways, their issues are my issues. They should be a concern for every thinking individual that considers themselves an American. But resolution will not come through anger. That is something that is the main reason why inequality and injustice exist in the first place. You will never find answers by playing the victim. Victims can never fix their problems. They need someone else to help them. You can be that person. We can all be that person. If not us, then who? You cannot solve the issue with attitude. Blaming authority and government is a dead end for all of your hopes and dreams. These issues can only be corrected through efforts from within, or through revolution. If it is revolution that you want, we will resist you with our life. If it is a resolution, we offer support and understanding and love. And there can be no respect for your efforts, and there will never be a solution of that which you seek if you disrespect our Anthem, our Flag, our President, and America. We need clarity to right the wrongs that exist in this country. We need reason and philosophy to show us the way. We need thoughtful contemplation to discover avenues for success, and we need to park our egos at the door and leave the chips on our shoulders at home. We need to bring trust, and understanding, and tolerance, and empathy to the table. And not just for you, but from you as well, to ever hope to rectify an extremely complex, and yet childishly easy issue. We need to change our paradigm. We need to think before we vote. We need to make choices much better than what we have been doing. We need to stop voting by party, and special interests. We need to vote based on what we really believe, and look for those individuals of character and integrity that reflect those beliefs, and the party be damned. If you cannot do that, your efforts will once again come up short. Very short. We need to be a country of individuals who work together for common goals. It doesn’t look good from where I sit at the moment, but I see no alternatives. But I do know one thing that will never solve our dilemma. It will never be resolved by taking a knee.