It’s that time again. Kids are heading off to school. The stay at home moms enjoy a little quiet time during the day and parents are busy crossing off items from the never-ending list of school supplies. In the background, many young hopeful athletes are beefing up on practices for upcoming sports competitions this fall.
Playing a sport can help teach children discipline, it puts them in a team working environment, and helps introduce the art of healthy competition. In high school football, the star player may find himself soon recruited for collegiate football teams, and if given a chance to score big during college football, they could even land a meeting with an NFL drafting agent.
To be known as an NFL star is a young football player’s dream, something they can work and aspire towards. But the dream of being the next Terry Bradshaw comes with the price of playing by the rules — which includes standing with your hand over your heart during the National Anthem.
Over the past couple of seasons (since Donald Trump took office) NFL players across America are kneeling, holding fists up and sitting in the locker rooms to “show America they stand for something.” What exactly that “something” is, seems to be quite debatable. This has left hard-working Americans, who pay astronomical ticket prices to watch them play, confused.
Our national anthem represents what’s best about America. It was written from a ship on September 14, 1814, by a then 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key. He wrote its powerful lines after witnessing the bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry by British ships during the War of 1812.
Even with warnings of game suspensions, the season started out with players protesting, yielding tweets from supporting fans and fed-up-fans alike. Some fans are sick and disgusted at the players kneeling or standing but raising their fists, pledging it goes against the American tradition and shows disrespect to those who have served in the military and to the many brave men and women who lost their lives in battle.
There is a lot of confusion over the issue of what these protests are about. When they began in 2016, players said they were protesting racial injustice and police brutality, but it seems to me it’s just a game of peer pressure. By protesting during the playing of our anthem and then failing to tell us precisely what they believe needs to change, these players aren’t helping us define the problems so we can help solve them.
A check of social media accounts of the NFL players who opted to protest during the anthem and why they are protesting or what they specifically want to change did not produce fruitful results. Perhaps they are being careful and fear being suspended for a tweet.
The Miami Dolphins team submitted a new policy to the NFL stating players who protest on the field during the national anthem could be suspended up to four games. Most recently the South Florida police union urged their members not to buy Dolphins tickets or to request a refund because a pre-season game was protested against during the national anthem.
What is disappointing, though, is that this entire debate has split along lines of patriotism versus the right to protest. That’s a false narrative many in the media have fomented and allowed to grow because they are reluctant to do honest reporting on this important issue.
The players can go on TV and radio, give speeches and take other actions to point out the flaws they see still existing in America. If they did that they might help all of us continue to make America all we hope it can be, again. Others have responded by saying they want to support brave players for taking a stand to point out systemic racism and other issues.
As money is also speech, why don’t these players get together to donate some of their millions to charities targeting the problems they are concerned about? This way we could at least define what they want by closely looking at what they are doing with their money.