As the NFL saga of the players’ protest during the playing of the national anthem continues, one of the common mantras that we now hear is that “it’s not about the flag, the anthem, or the country,” but let us examine the words of the man who started it all. Colin Kaepernick himself! “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the streets, and people getting paid leave, and getting away with murder.” He was very clear! As far as Mr. Kaepernick is concerned there is no reason for him to be proud of his country. In his eyes the United States of America is an oppressive society that does not deserve his allegiance.
Once again it is important to highlight that standing for the national anthem has always been done as an act of patriotism, and a symbol of respect for the nation. The moment when the anthem is played has always been a time to reflect on the ideals of the country, and pay homage to those who have paid the ultimate price in defense of the nation. It is a time honored tradition. Honoring the tradition does not mean that the country is perfect. Honoring the tradition is not a time when people symbolically stick their heads in the sand as they pretend that there are no problems facing the country. It is simply a time to acknowledge all that is good about the nation.
There has never been a time when doing what the NFL players are now doing has ever been seen as anything but an affront to the nation. In another time, when black people and other minorities were truly oppressed in America, these acts may have garnered more sympathy, but even then people generally respected the tradition. Today, as America stands as the freest Nation on God’s green earth, and the in the history of mankind, this behavior by these spoiled rich men of privilege is difficult for many to stomach. Opportunities for all abound in America, and anyone can be successful. There are so many mechanisms in place to confront the problems that we face as a country that it is truly hard to understand, and indulge the petulant millionaire brats of the NFL. So while it is their right to spit in the faces of over half their fan base who consider their behavior as disrespectful, and an act of ingratitude; it is also the right of the people in whose faces they are expectorating to be appropriately disgusted by their behavior and respond accordingly. Again no one is saying that there are no problems in America, but let us be honest about those problems, and find the right forum to raise our voices in unison to identify, and help fight these problems. Screaming institutional racism and oppression does no one any good because it contradicts all of the evidence. There is no group of people in America today being systematically oppressed. The fact that seventy percent of the players in the NFL are black in a country where they are only fourteen percent of the population is the perfect example of how this country honors merit.
Truly, there is racism in America. One would have to be blind or a fool to deny that, but we are not a racist society. We are a country of over three hundred million people of different races, with different upbringing, cultural experiences and backgrounds. It is impossible for there to be no racism, but no country in the world has done a better job at integrating, and continuing to work at harmoniously integrating such a diverse group of people. There are real problems facing the black community in particular that needs to be addressed and fixed, but screaming racism and systemic oppression as the reason for all of these problems is a major disservice to black people. As long as some black people can blame outside forces for all of their problems, they will fail to look internally, and make needed behavioral changes that could help to remedy their situation in life. If in their eyes, everything is the fault of a nebulous system designed to keep them down, then there is little that they can do to fix what ails them. This can only lead to hopelessness. It is time for people who should know better to stop feeding this type of mentality, and work towards finding practical solutions that will truly help the black community to be more successful Americans. The NFL players’ protest does nothing to address the real issues. By behaving the way they are, they are only politicizing their brand and turning off a significant portion of their fan base. This is not why people tune in to the NFL. People want to see touch downs not kneeling down.