This past Friday evening, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, said that professional football players who don’t stand during the national anthem prior to a game should be suspended or fired. He used the phrase “sons of bitches,” while referring to these athletes.
Yes, the sitting President of the free world referred to prominent American citizens as “sons of bitches” after they elected to exercise one of their constitutional rights to engage in a peaceful protest of racial injustice and oppression of minorities in the United States.
Now before I go any futher, I want to go ahead and provide a disclaimer to you who decided to click on the link and read my blog.
I am not writing this to make a political statement. I am not writing this to try and persuade you to feel a certain way or make you “pick a side.” I am writing this because the message has been lost as to why NFL players are protesting.
The President’s remarks ignited a firestorm of opinions and debates that have evolved to the point where the original message has been lost and doesn’t appear to have a chance of finding it’s way back into conversations.
There are certainly a lot of people out there in the media along with many athletes who are trying to keep the important topic afloat but it continues to get diluted and dragged down to the point where you are seeing constant headlines that include the phrase “protesting anthem.”
That is not what these athletes are doing and that is not the goal that Colin Kaepernick had a year ago when he began his peaceful protest of racial inequality in the United States. Who the hell protests a song anyways? Aside from anything Miley Cyrus puts out. You can protest that. I might even join you.
The President doubled down on his stance that these “sons of bitches” should be fired Sunday morning pleading with NFL fans to stop attending NFL games until all players are standing during the anthem. He continued this even into Tuesday morning after the Monday Night Football game between the Cowboys and Cardinals where the Cowboys organization as a whole knelt in unison prior to the national anthem and then stood during the actual performance of it.
He tweeted, “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”
(Imagine telling someone twenty years ago that the President of the United States would amplify a discussion about social issues via a website that allows you to publish your thoughts 140 characters at a time. I’m not sure whether they would laugh or cry.)
His statement Friday night upset everyone in the sports world. Lesean McCoy called him an asshole in a tweet. Lebron James referred to him as a bum in another tweet in defense of Stephen Curry after the President disinvited Curry and the Golden State Warriors from visiting the White House to celebrate their most recent championship even though Curry had already stated he wasn’t going.
(Remember the time you were invited to someone’s party that you really didn’t feel like going to but your best friend was close with the person hosting and convinced the host to invite you and then when the host found out you didn’t even want to be there, they just told you not to come and made your decision to not attend really easy?)
There were countless other athletes, coaches and team owners who spoke out regarding the President’s remarks via Twitter or other means. His statement challenged professional athletes courage and integrity, and quite frankly, their manhood.
Oh you want us fired for exercising our constitutional rights? Ok, now all of us are going to kneel. Go ahead and fire us.
Now everyone knew no one was getting fired and every NFL franchise and even some NBA franchises came out over the weekend and said they support their players and didn’t agree with the President’s remarks. Some statements were extremely poignant and profound, like what Gregg Popovich and Shannon Sharpe said (links at the bottom of the post). Others not so much. (Cough Cough…Roger Goodell)
But what the President said is a problem. You can’t have the leader of the FREE world saying things like that. He condemned U.S. citizens right to a peaceful protest.
Now I’d be the first person to say I would much rather have a discussion about who to start in a fantasy football match up or who’s going to be able to dethrone the Golden State Warriors in the western conference this year, but the President’s comments have injected politics into the sports world in a way that we’ve never seen before and people don’t know how to handle it.
My hope in writing this is to remind people of why the protest began in the first place. It was never meant to disrespect the flag, or the soldiers who protect our freedom, and certainly not the anthem (which if you were to Google the actual lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner, you’d be quite surprised as to what lies in the third stanza but I’ll let you do your own research on that one).
You may think it is disrespectful to kneel during the anthem and you have every right to feel that way. You’re missing the point and I don’t understand your logic but again, who am I to judge?
But if Colin Kaepernick had originally kneeled in protest to the fact that our soldiers don’t receive the support, education and healthcare that they need when they come back from serving overseas, would you still be this upset?
You need to ask yourself, what are you mad about? Are you mad about the vehicle they are using to protest or are you mad about the reason they are protesting?
If someone goes on a hunger strike, are they protesting food?
If a group of people march through a city, are they protesting traffic?
Of course not. Don’t let the vehicle of the protest distract you from why the protest is happening in the first place.
The barrage of posts and tweets and articles and opinions that are running rampant on not only social media but on mainstream news cycles seems to have already hijacked and twisted what this protest was really about. It’s now become about unity and coming together as one at least in the NFL.
The whole “kneeling together before the anthem and then standing during the actual performance,” was a diversion created by none other than Jerry Jones to misrepresent what the protest was for.
And now since that has gone down, you’ve now put the NFL players who still want to protest and who still feel it is necessary to protest (BECAUSE IT IS) into a box where if they kneel during the anthem, they will be viewed as pariah and not being a part of this “unity,” movement the NFL has picked up and ran with.
The kneeling before the anthem and then standing during it is nice for the optics for the NFL however it’s not going to solve the issue of racial injustice and minorities being oppressed in our country. It’s not going to stop unarmed African-Americans from being shot in the back by police. It’s not going to stop our President from trying to prevent minorities from other countries from entering the United States in hopes of a better life.
Like I said at the beginning, I’m not trying to convince you of anything. I’m just trying to remind you of how we got here and why I felt it necessary for me to blog for the first time in probably close to two years.
The amount of ignorance and misguided opinions I have seen over the past week has been infuriating. People are completely missing the point whether it’s willfully or without even noticing that they are.
Just recently I saw a letter that Taya Kyle wrote, the widow of the late Chris Kyle — one of the greatest American heroes our country has ever seen — telling athletes that they “should get off their knees” and actually do something to affect change.
I’m sorry, but didn’t JJ Watt just raise $37 million for hurricane relief efforts? Didn’t Colin Kaepernick pledge $1 million to different organizations to try and better his and other communities around the country?
What else do these “spoiled millionaire athletes” have to do aside from perfectly align with your personal politics?
I’m guessing they need to just stay in their place and play football and stay out of political and social and economic issues, right?
Here’s one more just in case I didn’t drive the point home two paragraphs ago. Lebron James, who has been extremely outspoken about our current President and his recent comments, has donated more than $41 million to students hoping to go to college. He put 1,100 kids in college due to his charity work. That still not enough?
Should I keep going?
I don’t want to make it sound like I’m being disrespectful to Taya Kyle as I will be the first to admit that she has sacrificed way more for this country than I ever have, and without a doubt ever will, but that letter was ridiculous and beyond misguided and the perfect example of how this protest has been hijacked from its original purpose.
These athletes probably do more charity work in a year than most people may do in a lifetime, it just doesn’t get reported or acknowledged the majority of the time.
Colin Kaepernick was protesting the injustice in this country in regards to how minorities are treated and ultimately oppressed based on their skin color, beliefs, and/or religion.
While you may not agree with how he protested, he did it because he knew it was going to draw attention and create a conversation. While it has done that, it’s also being derailed by people who don’t want to have the uncomfortable conversation that has to deal with racism or who don’t want to look in the mirror and realize that they might be wrong.
Eric Reid, who was the first NFL player to join Kaepernick in kneeling during the anthem, wrote an opinion that appeared in the New York Times (link below) earlier this week.
In it he wrote, “It is paramount that we take control of the story behind our movement, which is that we seek equality for all Americans, no matter their race or gender.”
Keep in mind that Kaepernick had originally sat on the bench during the national anthem starting in preseason games prior to the 2016 NFL regular season. When Reid wanted to join him, they both met with Nate Boyer, a former green beret and NFL player and came to conclusion it would be more respectful to kneel during anthem as opposed to sitting on the bench. This demonstration was decided upon to draw attention to their desire to initiate the conversation about trying to find, “equality for all Americans.”
Equality for all Americans. That’s it. That’s what this whole damn thing is about.
It’s not about disrespecting police. It’s not about disrespecting the troops. It’s not about disrespecting the American flag. It’s about trying to find equality among Americans.
If you have seen tweets or articles or Facebook posts suggesting that what these players are doing by kneeling during the national anthem, is to disrespect the American flag or disrespect the troops, you need to remind yourself that is not the case. Colin Kaepernick expressed that exact sentiment when he first spoke publicly about his decision to kneel during the anthem:
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up, as far as giving freedom and justice, liberty to everybody…”
What I want you to take away from reading this is that change is something humans are innately afraid of. Whether you believe that or not, we are all creatures of habit. For this to ever get better and for all of you who are pining for politics to be taken out of football, we need to change as a society and start embracing and appreciating and respecting people from all backgrounds and ethnicities and religions.
We need to find equality. We need to remember how to treat people with respect. We need to accept and initiate change within ourselves first and foremost. I applaud Colin Kaepernick for everything he has sacrificed and I can only hope that one day we can look back on this time in history and say that what he did was not done in vein.
Thank you for reading this. I hope I have at least made you stop and think for a couple seconds and I’ll do my best to try and come up with more entertaining or light-hearted blog posts in the future.
Shannon Sharpe Comments: http://www.foxsports.com/watch/undisputed/video/1056079427823
Taya Kyle Letter to NFL Players:
Eric Reid New York Times Opinion: