First. I believe it is entirely possible to resent the players kneeling WITHOUT being racist. Many service men and women believe the flag is so much more than a symbol. And when the flag is “disrespected”, they may feel their service is disrespected. This is an extremely unfortunate side-effect of the protest, and I have never heard any of the players say otherwise.
As for us who respect the flag/anthem more than we respect these men for protesting in something they believe this strongly in… I just urge you to think about that. Is the flag and anthem more important than the ideologies the flag and anthem represent? The ideologies of freedom, and equality? The freedom to kneel during the anthem is ABSOLUTELY WHAT MAKES AMERICA GREAT.
I should mention, It is almost shocking to me by how much apparent (or willing) confusion there is on what the protests are actually about. Many believe the NFL folks are actually protesting the flag, or the anthem, or the USA, or literally any other thing besides what this is about. Still others, attempting to be supportive, make this simply about the right of free speech.
But specifically – they are protesting the long-standing (and proven, like, by real studies/sources, like the FBI) bias against the black community, from the police community (generally). Police brutality against the black community – that’s what it’s about.
If you’re understanding of the protests align with any of the misunderstandings outlined above, you’re certainly not alone, but I would hope you’re willing to rethink things in light of what the protests are intended to shine a light on. To miss the point is to miss the whole reason any of this matters.
Shannon Sharpe talks about this same confusion:
He 👏🏽 called 👏🏽 everybody 👏🏽 out. "I'm even disappointed in one of my best friends, Ray Lewis" pic.twitter.com/ne8FJClvp9
— Tanisha (@SportyByNature) September 25, 2017
And Nick Wright (gets extra amazing at 3:57):
The protests have been hijacked by folks with an agenda. I tried to set the record straight this morning. I think this is worth your time. pic.twitter.com/p5xmmjeeYY
— nick wright (@getnickwright) September 25, 2017
I believe the kneeling angers “us” partly because the issue is not real enough to us as white people, and so it’s easy to make this into a “bigger” thing. Each time one of “them” gets shot, we don’t feel it as if one of our own was shot. You may believe you are not racist, but if you cannot “kneel” in solidarity with “them”, or even grant empathy to the kneeling, then it is a possibility that racism is latent. Racism is not simply hatred for another race, it can also manifest in our underlying “otherism” (which I definitely struggle with). “They” should be treated as “us”. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. If we were to do that, we would not need this to be a “bigger” issue. The issue is already big enough!
You may argue that there are better ways to handle this. I’d rather not, but my stance is that I don’t believe there is a more visible way for someone like Kaepernick to protest without worse consequences (e.g. violence, e.g. Charlottesville). The point of a protest is to draw attention to an issue. Argue all you want about the method, but the protest, by that definition, is extremely effective, even with the conflation that followed. Thanks to Kaepernick, and the men who kneel, and the ensuing drama, anger, and incension, I have never thought harder about the issue of police brutality towards minorities, and for the first time, I’ve allowed myself to mentally step into their shoes. And it’s a painful and scary place to be. Maybe they’re all making it up. Maybe they all “deserved it” (really?!). Maybe it’s a big media conspiracy, or generationally poor mental fortitude.
Or maybe there’s just too many witnesses, and too many anecdotes, and believe it or not, too much evidence. And maybe “them” is “us”.
And finally, to believers. Jesus is so much bigger than any nation. While he was here, he told us the two greatest commands. Surprisingly, they were not “respect the flag, stand during the anthem”.
They were 1) love God, 2) love people.
I cannot imagine a Jesus being here on earth and agreeing with our anger over the kneeling. I also cannot imagine him agreeing with the way we have equated God with USA. What I absolutely CAN imagine is Jesus walking over next to Kaepernick and kneeling with him. Because Jesus loves people, even the dark ones, even the young ones, even the disrespectful and wayward ones, even the ghetto ones. Even the self-righteous ones, even the silver-spooned ones, even the nationalists, even the liberals, even the conservatives. Even the Russians, and the North Koreans, and the Trumps, and the Clintons.
The ones Jesus most often left alone (or had the harshest words for) were those who felt strongly in the rightness of themselves. The self-righteous.
The ones commended? Those who stand for others. Or in this case, kneel.
I love our country. What those players are doing on the field make me love our country even more. FREEDOM is an incredible and sometimes unwieldy thing.