It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to the talk at the water cooler on Monday. Not many people wanted to talk about the upsets and surprises in NFL games on Sunday.
Most of the talk was directed to the NFL players and staff who chose to kneel or stay in the tunnel during the National Anthem before their games.
Social Media was dominated by a mix of opinions.
Many of our readers who read my column may be curious as to where I stand on this issue.
Here’s my take…
First off, these NFL players and staff do have the right to protest.
No matter where you are on both sides of this issue, those protesting have every right to do so.
Some of the players have been kneeling during the National Anthem due to their concerns involving a mistreatment of the African-American community by some police officers.
This is where the protests originated last year with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He once said, “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.”
This past week, President Donald Trump was talking at a political rally in Alabama and discussed the National Anthem and protests that have carried over into this season.
“We’re proud of our country; we respect our flag,” President Trump said. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘get that son of a (expletive) off the field right now – he’s fired.’”
Before his comments, the NFL anthem protests had very little momentum through the first two weeks. The situation blew up this weekend after his remarks. While I understand the President’s point of view, his words and they way he says things come across very divisive.
It would have helped if he didn’t get into name calling and would have followed up his comments by reiterating that he knows the players have the right do what they want but perhaps they should choose a different time than when the National Anthem is playing.
More than 200 players protested on Sunday and even three teams were off the field during the National Anthem.
For many protesters, the reasons were to join with other teammates to publicize their right to express their freedom of speech and to show solidarity against the President’s comments and what many saw was another sign of someone trying to silence their feelings on an array of topics affecting this nation.
I get it. I understand why players want their voices heard. The NFL has the best ratings of all professional sports and these players can get their message out to a large audience rather quickly through these protests.
I just personally wish they could do this at a time that does not include the National Anthem.
I just have a problem knowing that so many men and women have sacrificed their lives and been willing to sign up to sacrifice their lives for us to have the freedoms that we have.
We associate our American flag and the National Anthem with our military. While those protesting will say their stance has nothing to do with our military, well, who is typically holding the flag at these games when the National Anthem is being performed? It’s typically someone who has signed up for military service and is in full uniform.
The National Anthem has brought our citizens together in a special way during past Superbowls and special events while our military is at war.
As a big NFL fan, a couple of protests really bothered me on Sunday.
One involved the Pittsburgh Steelers and the criticism by head coach Mike Tomlin and player James Harrison after Alejandro Villanueva was the lone Steeler saluting the flag during the anthem.
When asked about Villanueva he said “Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team.”
“We thought we were all in attention with the same agreement, obviously, ” Harrison said.
“But, I guess we weren’t.”
Villanueva served three tours in Afghanistan. He hasn’t spoken publicly since Sunday but was quoted last year by ESPN during the Kaepernick coverage.
“I don’t know if the most effective way is to sit down during the national anthem with a country that’s providing you freedom, providing you $16 million a year…when there are black minorities that are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan for less than $20,000 a year,” he was quoted.
He added: “I will be the first one to hold hands with Colin Kaepernick and do something about the way minorities are being treated in the United States, the injustice that is happening with police brutality, the justice system, inequalities in pay. You can’t do it by looking away from the people that are trying to protect our freedom and our country.”
Then late Monday, it appeared he was forced to publicly apologize for standing outside the tunnel on Sunday. It was a very uncomfortable press conference to watch.
Fortunately, Ben Roethlisberger came out the same day and noted that he thought the protest could have been held differently.
“I was unable to sleep last night and want to share my thoughts and feelings on our team’s decision to remain in the tunnel for the National Anthem yesterday,” he said. “The idea was to be unified as a team when so much attention is paid to things dividing our country, but I wish we approached it differently. We did not want to appear divided on the sideline with some standing or some kneeling or sitting…As a team, it was not a protest of the flag or the Anthem.”
Then comes my beloved Baltimore Ravens.
The owner sent out a team statement in support of his players. On the sideline, legend Ray Lewis and around 10 players took a knee during the anthem.
The problem was this game was played overseas in London, England. So as they stood up after our National Anthem was played, perhaps they would have been better to stay on their knees for the next song “God Save Our Queen.”
I doubt they meant anything by standing up for one anthem over another but it sure didn’t look good.
You’re in another country protesting our National Anthem. Not only that but you’re standing up for the anthem representing a nation we fought against when Francis Scott Key was moved to write the poem “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” This poem was later used as “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Oh, and by the way, he wrote that in Baltimore. I’ve been in a sail boat and went right by the red, white, and blue buoy that sits in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore just across from Fort McHenry. This hits close to home.
Not to mention, Maryland is home to the Naval Academy and the home of countless servicemen and service women filling posts in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area.
I’ve never been a supporter of boycotts. That being said, this past Sunday marked the first time I’d ever truly considered taking part in one.
I really thought about turning off the NFL and my favorite team for the rest of this season.
I don’t know what I’m going to do but I sure am cheering for fans to not show up to the biggest rivalry game in the NFL this Sunday when the Ravens take on the Steelers.
Again, I’m all for players being able to protest for what they think is right. I just wish they would do not during the National Anthem.
I personally don’t believe the anthem is ever the time to make any type of protest. I was all for the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals on Monday night kneeling at the same time before the anthem played and then they stood up in solidarity. It takes out the conflict with the National Anthem and doesn’t cover up their message.
Roethlisberger concluded his statement by making it clear he plans to stand for the anthem going forward…
“I appreciate the unique diversity in my team and throughout the league and completely support the call for social change and the pursuit of true equality,” he said. “Moving forward, I hope standing for the Anthem shows solidarity as a nation, that we stand united in respect for the people on the front lines protecting our freedom and keeping us safe. God bless those men and women.”