In a conversation today regarding the National Football League (NFL) and fantasy football with a colleague, the subject of the controversial “kneeling protest” by (primarily, but not only) black players during the playing of the National Anthem before games came up.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started sitting down and then kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem to protest racial injustice (in general) in America and the killings of unarmed young black people by police officers (in particular).
My colleague, being a patriotic football fan, took vehement exception to the protest, insisting that protesting during the playing of the National Anthem before a game (read: on the job) on national television is hardly the appropriate time or place to stage a public protest, and furthermore is disrespectful of our country and its veterans.
My retort to this line of thought is threefold:
Firstly, as a veteran, when I took the Oath of Enlistment to join and serve in the United States Army, that oath was not to protect a flag, an anthem, or anyone’s sense of sensibility or patriotism. I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. That includes the right for anyone to peacefully protest whether I agree with them or not.
Secondly, I fully recognize that the point of any protest is to elicit emotion as well as draw attention to the stated cause being protested. Protest is supposed to be very public and make people uncomfortable. Raising awareness to an important civil rights issue is not effective only when it is convenient or comfortable for everyone. Something anyone who lived the Civil Rights Movement can attest to.
Lastly, I am of the opinion that actions (or inactions) speak louder than words. The NFL could have easily shutdown the protests if it didn’t (ostensibly) welcome the publicity the protests and the controversy brought to the league.
It could have cut (fired) the protesting players (like it effectively did to Colin Kaepernick later) or refused to televise or even hold the ceremonial anthem playing. That the NFL didn’t do any of these things even after President Donald Trump weighed in to condemn the players and the league, the NFL going so far as defending the protesting players after the president called the players “sons of bitches”, speaks volumes.
Just a friendly reminder to think rather than emote and look at what people do versus what they say.
-The Rational Ram