I try to stick to sports, I really do. But when President Donald Trump inserts himself into my world, what am I to do?
President Trump decided to weigh in on the peaceful protesting during the national anthem of football games by tweeting out, “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
At one of his rallies, Trump went on to say, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a [expletive] off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”
Sunday, many team owners spoke out against Trump’s comments and many more athletes kneeled in protest. Except now the protest is about Trump, and not about the original issue Kaepernick was kneeling for. Kaepernick was protesting racism. He was protesting police brutality. And he was doing that during the anthem. The protest had nothing to do with the flag or the national anthem, though there are racist lines to the song itself (another topic for another day).
The narrative has changed from police brutality to “disrespecting the flag,” which by the way is yet another column I can write for another day. To sum it up, nowhere in the United States Code, Title 36, Chapter 10 (laws relating to the flag of the United States of America) does it explicitly state that you have to stand while the national anthem is playing. Only that you “should.” And even though it says you should, it doesn’t say it’s “disrespectful” if you don’t. But there are plenty violations explicitly banning things such as using the flag “for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever,” (looking at you beer companies during the summer), or that “the flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery,” (looking at you American flag trunks).
We forget that Kaepernick began this peaceful protest by sitting. He then had a conversation with a military veteran and compromised by kneeling to honor the military while also peacefully protesting. But of course, that doesn’t fit the narrative of “disrespecting the military,” now does it?
Speaking of which, I’m tired of the military being used as a prop. I’m tired of my dad, a 20-year Army veteran, being used as a prop. The military isn’t a singular force with just one opinion. I hear it from my brother, currently in the Army, all the time. He has fellow soldiers that don’t share the same viewpoints. To say that an act of peaceful protest is disrespectful to the military is, ironically, disrespectful to the military. Think about it. There are people out here who believe that military members are so fragile, that a football player on bended knee would offend them. I find that more disrespectful.
Then there’s the entitlement argument. “These athletes with millions of dollars aren’t oppressed, why are they protesting?”
Before getting into that, how did we go from “going against the man” to rooting for management over employees? We have more sympathy for NFL owners than we do NFL players.
I saw this interaction online and found it to be interesting. A Twitter user wrote ESPN’s Bomani Jones a message saying he thought many people just don’t want to hear people with six and seven-figure salaries do what they perceive as complain. Jones hit him back with “how many of them voted for a purported billionaire whose whole campaign was built on complaints?”
He’s got a point.
As for being entitled and not being oppressed, why don’t you go ask Seattle Seahawks football player Michael Bennett on how “not oppressed” he is, as he was lying on the ground afraid for his life because he was mistreated by police since he’s a big, scary black man.
Next time someone complains about these rich “entitled” athletes using their voice, ask yourself this. When’s the last time we listened to someone poor? I am not going to bash an athlete for using his platform to be a voice for the voiceless.
Critics talk about not wanting politics to enter the sports world — that sports is our safe haven, the place where we go to escape the real world, and that these athletes and everyone involved need to just stick to sports. I once had someone tell me to stick to sports. But if we really wanted everyone involved in my world to stick to sports, then why do we even play the national anthem before games?
Stick to sports? I’d prefer it. But I’m let’s be clear on this point. I am an American citizen, as are these athletes. We have a right to use our voice. I’m not about to let anybody try to suppress my voice or even imply that athletes need to suppress their voices either.