Controversy over former San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the national anthem is still a heated debate. More athletes are bending a knee in what they say is a show of unity and a cry against inequality in our nation. Those opposed to the display are outraged at the public slight to our country’s flag and the shared meaning among all Americans. While free speech is a right for all Americans, should professional athletes who have so much influence over their fans, be allowed to utilize the league’s public forum for personal protests while ‘on the clock?’
According to Jim Brown, arguably one of the best pro football players ever to set foot on a field, Kaepernick dishonored the flag, and his protests do not belong in the game.
“Colin has to make up his mind whether he’s truly an activist or whether he’s a football player,” Brown told The Post Game.“Football is commercial. You have owners. You have fans. And you want to honor that if you’re making that kind of money. … I’m going to give you the real deal: I’m an American. I don’t desecrate my flag and my national anthem. I’m not gonna do anything against the flag and the national anthem. I’m going to work within those situations. But this is my country, and I’ll work out the problems, but I’ll do it in an intelligent manner.”
Brown’s activist accomplishments off the field include helping to found the Negro Industrial Economic Union, and a program to help ex-convicts and former gang members to re-establish themselves in society. He conducted these efforts off of the field and was highly successful. He did much more for his community and those he felt needed help than kneeling during the national anthem could ever do.
Recently, the Cleveland Browns held the largest (so far) protest against the flag during a pre-season game. Ten players, including two white teammates, knelt during the anthem to pray for peace and solidarity. Defensive back Jason McCourty said many on the team were upset about the events that took place in Charlottesville. “As NFL players,” he said, “we have the power to remind everyone that we are all Americans. We shouldn’t be pitted against one another.”
And this might only be the beginning of even more displays of disrespect. McCourty said he’s talked to players from both conferences and expects 15 to 25 of the teams to start participating. “A lot of people have been wanting to do something but just didn’t know how to handle things,” he said.
McCourty said the players ‘have the power,’ and they do; which is only one of the reasons this sort of action should not be allowed…Not while they are on the clock, representing their team. He and other protesters claim they do this to bring about unity, not to pit one against the other. But in reality, disrespecting the flag and all it stands for is only dividing our country even more.
“As a U.S. Marine veteran, I’m offended by the league’s unwillingness to stand for America,” wrote SN reader Brent McNeill. “Sure, individuals have a right to pursue their social or political agenda. But the league should not allow individuals to exploit its product as a platform.”
Everyone has a right to their opinion as well as a right to express their views peacefully but not by exploiting the companies who employ them. Kaepernick’s kneel-down last year offended thousands of fans to the point that the NFL’s television ratings started dropping. While the ‘powers that be’ assured the networks the viewers were only watching other channels because of the coverage of the crazy election, the ratings continued to drop even after a president was named.
Of course, these kneel-down protests are disrespectful to the flag, but what about to those who gave their lives for us and our country? Jon VanDeBogart is a former U.S. Marine, police officer and NFL fan. After Kaepernick’s show of disrespect, VanDeBogart stopped watching NFL altogether, saying he was deeply offended by the action and the League’s refusal to do anything about it. These protests, he said, dishonor our military veterans and everyone who continues to serve in the military:
“When you think about the sacrifice these men made? And the horrific way they died. A minute, thirty seconds is pathetically small. Then to not (honor that). It makes me sick to my stomach, there’s no other way to put it. These guys died so you didn’t have to — and you can’t stand up for a minute? I can’t handle it.”
Our flag represents everything we, as Americans, have ever been or will ever be. Choosing not to stand at attention for it, to provide a moment of silence in honor of all of those who have fought and died to protect our way of life is a gross show of disrespect. How does this in any way promote unity among the people? How does this promote peace and equality? The football field is not the place to fight for personal beliefs, and the league owners should come together and fight against this vulgarity and insult to the fans and Americans everywhere.