I stand for the national anthem. I also remove my hat and place my hand over my heart. The flag flies proudly in front of our home in Gettysburg and from our deck in Seattle.

I do this out of respect, not for the flag or the anthem itself, but for the country which they represent. To me it is all about the underlying values and promises outlined in The Constitution of the United States. These guarantees can best be boiled down to the final six words of The Pledge of Allegiance, “…with liberty and justice for all.”

Sadly we as a people do not fully live up to the “for all” condition of our shared value statements.

Our country’s founders wisely realized that erosion of liberty and justice for all was a likely outcome. The founders knew that there would always be evil people among us who would impose their will upon others and deny others their rights under The Constitution.

The Constitution guarantees the right to speak up against injustice. This is especially important when that injustice is perpetrated by representatives of the government.

Patriotic citizens have long warned about the dangers of the government denying rights of individuals. They are absolutely right to have these concerns. Authoritarian governments hate the freedom of speech and they use their power to systematically eliminate anyone who speaks out against any of their actions.

I have tremendous respect for law enforcement. They serve in a high-risk jobs. Our society is dependent on them. We owe them our gratitude. Even the best police departments, however, may have officers who misuse the power given to them and fail to equally administer justice.

African Americans have known for years that there are some bad police officers who will literally kill them for minor infractions or misunderstandings. I would not have believed this to be so prevalent years ago, but the advent of the availability of video evidence has provided us all a glimpse into the truth of widespread police brutality against blacks and other non-white populations. It is frighteningly clear that we do not yet have equal justice for all. Changes must be made.

By taking a knee during the National Anthem, football players make a powerful statement. Taking a knee is a solemn and important statement in any context. We propose marriage taking a knee. We kneel at church. Historically men knelt before the Queen to be knighted. Football players take a knee when listening to their coaches.

It is a powerful statement for football players to use peaceful protest and the celebrity media platform that is available to them as professional athletes to speak out about racial injustice.

Unfortunately many have interpreted the act of taking the knee, bowing one’s head or sitting silently during the National Anthem differently. They see the meaning of this silent, peaceful, and respectful protest action by a black man as an affront to our military. Some believe that racial injustice does not really exist and that police are always innocent and are just doing their job.

Trump has verbalized these narrow, simplistic, and twisted assumptions about the motives of protestors. With sinister and deadly impact he as driven a huge wedge between Americans. We are divisible and Trump knows it. The white supremacists could have no stronger ally than Donald Trump. Trump’s motives are unknowable, but the consequences are sadly predictable.

By taking a knee to protest racial injustice, players do not threaten democracy, they embody it and they respect it.

The real disrespect I see right now is Trump’s assault on our fundamental freedom of speech and our right to protest. His use of the power of the presidency to try to limit the free speech of those he does not like should make conservatives and liberals alike very angry. It makes me furious. Trump is a real threat to our constitutional guarantees.

6 thoughts on “Respect”

  1. Our right to free speech does NOT apply to the private sector. NFL players work for employers and employers have the right to impose codes of conduct on their employees. Employees of the Federal Government, for instance, have to (among other things) pledge allegiance to the US Constitution and are not allowed to participate in activities that conflict with their official job duties.

    Private employers are allowed to require employees to abide by dress codes and additional rules and codes of behavior. NFL owners, for instance, are not required to employ a player that refuses to wear his uniform, refuses to meet with the press, commits domestic abuse, uses drugs, etc. Failing to stand for the National Anthem is, apparently, a behavior NFL team owners do not want to encourage.

    One more point. Colin Kapernick, whose kneeling ignited this whole discussion, was not fired. He decided to opt out of the remaining two years of his contract with the 49ers and test the free agent market. Other NFL owners are not required to hire him.

    I agree with your stance on President Trump. He appears to be more concerned with drawing attention to himself, than he is with trying to add anything useful to just about any issue pertinent to life, not just in this country, but on this planet.

    He’s a drama queen and to him, it seems, any attention is good attention, not matter what he has to do or say to get it. In this case, I hope that NFL owners just ignore him and his ridiculous blabbering.

    1. Ron, I am pretty sure that you are correct that the owners have the right to discipline players who don’t follow the contract requirements that they have regarding the players behavior during the playing of the National Anthem. The question in my mind is not “can” they take action, but rather “should they”. Apparently a number of the owners agree with the players. The issues that I believe the players want to call attention to are very real and important – justice is not always applied “for all”. There may or may not be better ways to raise the issue, but they certainly have the right to speak out and I think this protest is not only peaceful but powerful. It may cost them personally, but they still have a right to be heard. For Trump to scream and rant about something in a way that convolutes the issue and greatly raises tension and divisiveness is just wrong. Again, yes, he “can” make these statements (he too has freedom of speech) but rather “should he.” Thanks for your thoughts, it is a tough issue with many tentacles and lots of barbs. Jim

  2. Agreed, brother!
    What you didn’t share was that you have an extensive military career including a profound tour of duty in Viet Nam. For me, this gives your perspective all the more importance. Thank you for your words.
    I found his interview with sports commentator, Bob Costa insightful:
    He calls out the issue of patriotism = military support. I am pondering… are true patriots exclusive to those who sacrifice for military service or as first responders? As undeniably important a sacrifice as that is… What about the child care workers who work at minimum wage & give their all to love and enrich the lives of our littlest ones? What about the nursing home care providers who also work at minimal wage and love and care for our parents and grandparents at the the end of their lives? What about the farm workers who literally break their backs for the food on our table? What about Peace Corps or AmeriCorps volunteers? or Doctor’s Without Borders… social workers, or volunteers for the common good of all stripes? Aren’t they, too, (and so many others) patriots?
    Lots of good insights from many commentators today – most of them that I read gravely concerned about the divisive nature of Trump’s rhetoric.
    I googled the “history of the national anthem at sporting events in the USA.” Interesting to read. Also, I wondered if other countries also have their national anthems at sporting events. (appears not so much as the US from what I can gather) Somehow our customs has likely roots beginning with Babe Ruth in the World Series and then WWI and WWII. We have institutionalized this practice in the world of first baseball, then all sports. Did not happen in the arts though.
    As you state, the constitution insures the right of free speech. If NFL players (or anyone) compassionately take a knee to quietly, peacefully state concern for a legitimate, serious civil rights issue, how can that not be OK? I believe that we need to not only listen and take in what they are saying and the true reason for their protest, but also learn from them and use our own voices to endorse and support what is true and right for ALL Americans.
    On Facebook today I also saw a link to the town hall with military members and families when President Obama was faced with a question about kneeling protests to the national anthem. This was his response:
    All this said, why is this such an issue? While our country (& world) face unimaginable dangers with North Korea, world peace, care for the planet, rights for human beings, health care, education policy, economics… it makes absolutely no sense that the president (and hence our attention) is diverted in this direction.
    The flag, the anthem… is this really the real issue? Isn’t it what is/ will happen in human lives?

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