When my husband and I left Arizona two weeks ago for his Navy reunion in Alabama, the controversy was happily boiling over regarding protests by black NFL players during the playing of the national anthem before football games. The column I had begun lay unfinished in my notebook. I figured it would be a dead issue by the time I got back to it.
I was so very wrong. An issue which should be straightforward, uncomplicated, beautiful in its simplicity, is still being muddied by completely unrelated red herrings.
Here is the truth as I have sorted it out:
1. Black NFL players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem is NOT a protest against the flag of our country. It IS a statement of extreme displeasure toward the continuing, systemic racism in America, specifically the violent, too often deadly, treatment of black males at the hands of police.
2. The First Amendment of our Constitution clearly guarantees freedom of speech to ALL citizens of this nation. It does NOT place restrictions or qualifiers on that speech. Location, situation and time of day do NOT have any influence on the exercising of this right (save the old crying “fire” in a crowded theater threat to the general welfare).
3. Wealthy, privileged (and I use that term loosely), black football players have the same right to speak their minds as do poor, working-class black men who live in poverty. And all those black people have the same right to speak their minds as do Americans of every other color.
These are facts. As I see it, they are indisputable.
The sticking point, in my opinion, is that those wealthy, privileged (and I use that word guardedly) black NFL players have a unique and highly visible platform from which to exercise their guaranteed right. And they are taking full advantage of that platform.
Folks who piss and moan about their Sunday, Monday and Thursday game days being spoiled by a four-minutes political protest are a bunch of jealous crybabies. Aside from the fact that they don’t want to face the uncomfortable truth of their tolerance of systemic racism against the men who entertain them, they are jealous that these same men, by virtue of superior athleticism, can command inordinately outrageous salaries as well as a conspicuous stage on which to act out their criticism of the government that continues oppression against “their people.”
To argue this issue further is futile. Black NFL players are Americans. They have a right to speak without restriction, recrimination or retaliation. Just like you and me. Period.
The rotting of America from within continues indeed… from within our dark and self-centered souls.