I’ve been a casual observer of the peaceful protest some athletes have been choosing to do, in response to the country’s lack of equality and instances of police brutality. I’ll be honest. I hadn’t dwelled too much on it, until this weekend when I watched it all unfold in a large way.
I’ll admit it. I don’t exude feelings of patriotism. I consider myself a citizen of the world, more than I do one of this country. I stand at baseball games because that’s what we do. I recite the pledge when I am called to do so. I guide my children to show the same respect. All that being said, I don’t jump to say “God bless the USA,” and will readily admit we didn’t write the book on all the good ideas. I see policies in other countries we should be envious of. I also know of behavior by our country and our presidents I cannot stand behind.
This weekend, when President Trump called them “Sons of bitches”, it struck a cord and I finally took a minute to consider why these athletes were laying everything on the line. These players are paid to play. They risk their health, safety and in some cases lives so crowds, predominantly white, can cheer and jeer and throw back a beer or 10. It’s the role of professional sports in our culture, and I’m not going to argue against that system, since I love a good tailgate myself.
What I will say is that these acts of peaceful protests are a bigger act of patriotism to me, than rising for the National Anthem. Before you tar and feather me, hear me out. Our country is based on principles of equality and justice for all and we as a nation are failing to fulfill that obligation. These players aren’t damaging property, or threatening others. They’re risking their lucrative contracts to make a very quiet, peaceful and public point. And they’re succeeding. They’re forcing us to talk about it. They’re reminding us that something is not right.
Besides the argument that the players are disrespecting veterans, etcetera, I’m also hearing people in my circles and on public radio make the point that these players should protest on their own time, and look how much money they’re making. Almost like people resent them for their big salaries. Pardon my accusation, but I suspect this is an example of overt racism itself. Number one, standing for the National Anthem isn’t part of their job description. Number two, good for them if they made it big. It’s what we all aspire for ourselves and our children.
My grandfather fought in the Korean War, my dad in Vietnam, and my husband is also a Veteran. I can look all of them in the eye and tell them, I support “taking a knee.” In fact, I’ve contemplated the same act myself at the next public display of patriotism. They didn’t risk their lives, and others didn’t die, so we can mistreat each other here at home.