The President called black NFL players who kneel, “sons of bitches,” while violent neo-Nazis in Charlotesville have, “some good people.” This, in a nutshell, is why I support Black Lives Matter. It’s also why I proudly support any and all professional players who took a knee this past weekend. I support them doing it as long as they feel it’s necessary.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to acknowledge a simple truth: most will likely scoff at any point I can try to make to back up my support. I am a white guy who has never served in the military. I am not brave enough. So, I’d like to compile words expressed on social media from people much more qualified than me to speak on these matters.
First, from the players:
This Deadspin article rounds up views from many players, such as Michael Thomas, LeSean McCoy and Alex Smith. Click the link to watch all the videos; here are the most poignant observations, in my opinion.
Finally, Alex Smith:
Eric Reid, the player who joined Colin Kaepernick in his protest, penned a lucid opinion column in the New York Times. Here’s a passage from it:
“After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.
It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.“
If you still think it’s about the anthem, I invite you to consider this:
The entire Dallas Cowboys staff – players, coaches, owner and all – knelt before the start of the national anthem, then stood as it started. And they still got booed. This comes as little surprise to me given that they were in the state from which Joe Arpaio hails, but I digress.
Even Alejandro Villanueva, the courageous lineman who served numerous tours of duty in the Middle East, clarified his standing alone for the anthem, saying the protests are, “…protected by our constitution and our country. It’s the freedom of speech.”
Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was called a “no good nigger” by a Pennsylvania fire chief, thereby proving the point the kneeling players are trying to make.
Trevor Noah, who I know is neither a player nor a veteran but a political commentator, had the most honest summation of people’s disagreements with the protests. If you read no other word of this or watch no other video, I implore you to watch this one.
Veterans, and those currently serving, support the message of taking a knee in large number as well. Their viewpoints on the matter only solidify my support.
We’ll start with Brennan Gilmore, who posted a picture of his grandfather, a WWII veteran:
He was of course not the only veteran to voice his support, just the most visible in a barrage of social media posts this weekend. Here are a few:
Anthony’s Twitter account is still active.
There are literally thousands more. I have seen far more support from veterans than dissent, and that tells me that Kaepernick was on to something, perhaps moreso than he realized. It’s not going away after this weekend; in fact, it may just get bigger. Stevie Wonder, Eddie Vedder, and Bruce Maxwell, an MLB catcher who has the support of his veteran father, have also kneeled in solidarity against racism.
Taking a knee is not about the military, it is not about the flag. Anyone who says otherwise is ignoring what the players are saying and creating their own narrative. It is about police brutality. It is about unfair sentencing in crimes. It is about what the flag represents; or rather, what it should represent. It is supposed to represent “liberty and justice for all.” It’s that “for all” part that has failed throughout literally the entire history of the United States of America. The reason it’s so prevalent now is because our President is single-handedly regressing the progress this country has made by 100 years.
I know there are many veterans out there who find the protests disrespectful to the brave men and women who volunteer themselves to go into harms’ way. I’ve listened to their arguments, and I’ve tried my best to put myself in their shoes. I’ve tried to understand their feelings. I know why they’re so passionate about the subject; they have seen unspeakable atrocities during their time of service, in an unjustified war that has cost the lives of thousands of American men and women, as well as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians. But there are things still happening in our country today that make these protests prudent and necessary.
A Muslim friend of mine’s mother was told to “go back to her country” recently. A Mexican friend of mine was called a “dirty beaner.” She has lived in San Diego her entire life and has never heard that insult until this year. Gay friends of mine have at one point or another been called every horrible name in the book. It’s worth repeating that black NFL players were referred to as “sons of bitches” by the President, just weeks after he said that neo-Nazis have “some good people.” There are countless similar examples. This. Is. New.
People need to acknowledge and appreciate that there are 26 other amendments besides the 2nd one; all of which, I would argue, hold far greater importance to our freedom. President Trump is a fascist, white supremacist, bigoted, impotent man-child who wants nothing except money and adulation. It’s upsetting how many people are willing to give him both every time he says something racist.
Kneeling during the anthem was never supposed to become a constitutional rights argument, but it has. President Trump has violated the First Amendment (and a host of other amendments) numerous times in the past couple of weeks. He demanded a company fire one of their employees for saying something he didn’t like. He demanded players be fired because he took their peaceful protest out of context.
People freak out sometimes when Trump is compared to Hitler, but I see no differences between the two. A paraphrased line from one of my favorite comedians: “Hitler didn’t come out of the gate killing six million Jews, he worked up to it!” It’s clear to me that Trump is working up to genocide. He has no grasp of reality, no sense of decency, and absolutely no fucking idea what he is doing.
I miss having a real president. I miss not waking up in fear of my and my friends’ lives. I miss the feeling of knowing that qualified and capable individuals are running the country. I hope to regain that feeling once again. Some day, but not today.
Black people have been told, “that’s not the right way to do things” for 70 years now. White people in large numbers disagreed with Rosa Parks. They disagreed with the March on Washington. They disagreed with Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the Black Power salute during the anthem. Now, these events are portrayed in the history books as powerful stands against racism. Now, in 2017, these protests are just as necessary. Now, black people and other people of color are routine victims of police brutality, racial profiling, gerrymandering and an unjust court system.
That is why these players kneel. There is a systemic, obvious, downright intentional, racism in this country. People who yell, “if you don’t like America you can get out!” only prove this point. Why leave, when they can stay and try to make America better? If I were an athlete, I would kneel. If we can just acknowledge and admit that racism is far too prevalent in this country, and work to eradicate it, then and only then will the kneeling stop.
So if you want to not hear about who knelt during the anthem anymore, then open your ears and your heart, and just listen to what an entire race of human beings is trying to tell you.
America, as a country and as an ideal, remains a grand experiment that currently has far too much chlorine in its system. We must not allow a few in power to take that power away from the people.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.“