Let me be the millionth person to weigh in on the National Anthem debate. I’ll do my best in the next 1,000 words to make some sense of this issue; even though a million words won’t solve the problem. It is the ultimate elephant in the room. A battle between ideologies and philosophies; a battle between left and right, liberal and conservatives, and unfortunately played out mostly along racial lines. And when the President, this President, weighs in, the matter immediately takes on a whole new element.
Presumably, Colin Kaepernick initially knelt in support of African Americans who he perceived were treated unfairly and with prejudice by law enforcement officers. Abuse by law enforcement is a serious issue and does deserve a platform to be discussed. Police and others who hold positions of authority hold the public trust, and anyone who abuses that trust should be dealt with seriously. The question became if the venue and timing of Kaepernick’s display was appropriate. Some jumped on the bandwagon. For his part, I give Kaepernick credit for being the first. Being the first to step out and have an opinion on anything can be tough, for that, if nothing else, he should be applauded. It may have cost him his football career.
This subject has so many layers. On the subject of Kaepernick not having a job, I don’t have a problem with it. If you want to put yourself out there, you have that right; but your employer also has the right to terminate you if he feels you will be a distraction and counter to a harmonious workplace. That being said, I have a huge problem with the owners. They have unofficially colluded to blackball Kaepernick, but this past week stood arm in arm with their players, in the name of free speech. There is a saying, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. For these owners, when the going gets tough, they run for cover. They donated millions of dollars to elect Donald Trump, yet there they were on Sunday and Monday in lock step with their players.
This isn’t about free speech. Roger Goodell and the NFL are hypocrites. Last season, after the sniper attack in Dallas, which killed police officers, the Cowboys wanted to wear a small patch to honor that police force: they were refused. Last season a player wanted to wear pink cleats to honor his mother who succumbed to cancer: he was refused. There is not unfettered free speech in the workplace. And as much as it may sound odd, the football field is the player’s workplace. If their employer or the NFL said they couldn’t kneel, they couldn’t kneel: period. If they did, and disobeyed a memo, then they would be at risk of being fined, suspended, or terminated. This issue is way too hot for the coward owners or commissioner Goodell to handle.
And at this point, the genie is out of the bottle. They can’t change their position; they’ve chosen the side they want to be on. As the President pointed out; the ratings are way down, as is attendance. I’m sure the networks and advertisers are watching closely. I can only guess that trend will continue in the coming weeks. People simply don’t want to be lectured when they are out and spending hundreds of dollars. They want to be entertained. Think about this for a second; at the Patriots home game, the majority of the crowd reigned boos down onto their five time championship team at the start of the Anthem, because over a dozen of their players knelt. Of course, by game’s end, those same fans cheered Brandon Cooks, (one of the kneelers), when he caught Tom Brady’s fifth touchdown catch of the day, for the comeback victory.
So yes, the players can win fans back; they just need to go out and play. Nobody wants to hear their opinions with the Anthem as the backdrop and prop. Is the topic worthy of discussion? ABSOLUTELY! Does it need to be discussed to effect positive change and advancement? ABSOLUTELY! That is a debate worth having, because it is the one thing that can truly Make America Great…and it is currently the main thing that is tearing us apart. Some argue that as a nation with so much diversity, we’ll never be unified, that we’re destined to disagree. That may be true, but I can remember a day when, even though we disagreed, we weren’t disagreeable.
As I said in the beginning of this, 1000 words won’t solve anything. The last 150 years hasn’t really been able to solve everything. We do need to start somewhere, and it is imperative that we all keep the debate and the dialogue going. When President Obama was elected, he spoke of a post-racial society. It is a wonderful concept and ideal. As a white man, I foolishly believed that by electing Obama, no more work had to be done. I was ignorant. Eight years later, millions of people who voted for Obama twice, voted for Donald Trump. The vote for Obama didn’t make the country 100% color blind, any more than the vote for Trump makes us a country of racists or homophobes.
As a nation, we want results, and we forgive mistakes. Much like the reaction this Sunday at the Patriots game, which started with boos and ended with gleeful cheers; we simply expect results from our political leaders. The rise of Trump could be seen a mile away for anyone who was paying attention. I predicted he’d win when I saw the vast number of people at his rallies. People were and are angry at the bureaucracy of Washington DC…at BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES. Donald Trump spoke to those people. Combine that with an opponent who embodied “The Establishment”, and the consummate insider; and it was the perfect storm for Trump to swoop in and win.
So what does it mean? It means those who don’t support this President and didn’t vote for him need to get over it…plain and simple. The same way those who didn’t vote for Obama, George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton, needed to get over it. Be better going forward, and find a better message.
This all ties together. Continually dwelling on the recent or distant past won’t solve anything. Sitting down today, tomorrow, and the next day to come up with solutions going forward is the only way to break through to truly be the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.
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