Freedom and Football

abcnews

“People don’t get mad when people are shot or killed, but they’re getting mad because a football player is kneeling or raising a fist,” said Melendez, who is African-American. “The double standard is crazy.” This quote comes from a story in the New York Times from a fan at the Jets game.

This weekend was the third week of the NFL season and one television commentator said, “President Trump goes for cheap applause”. He does that and more. He chooses to divide Americans by race, gender, and national origin. He chooses to start divisive debates about who is a “good” American and who isn’t as if he has the power beyond the bully pulpit to make such a decision. It is as if our democratic system of checks and balances, our laws, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution are his alone to interpret. Yes, he likes applause and plays to crowds of supporters caught up in the moment. I presume those supporters would fight for their rights if they felt at risk of losing them. When President Trump has been rendered powerless at the job he was elected to do, he vigorously attacks those he deems powerless to divert attention from his failings. This is the “give them red meat and they won’t notice your failure” approach to leadership. The NFL players and owners stood, kneeled and displayed the resistance to the President’s divisive remarks and hateful behavior that we who love America should emulate. Their demonstration reflected a peaceful but loud and bold resistance.

For those who want athletes to be quiet and just play the game, they should consider the historic relationship between athletes and activism. It was important for John Carlos and Tommie Smith during the 1968 Summer Olympics and it is important to Venus and Serena Williams who are advocates of equal pay for women tennis players. As Americans, we have the right to decide when we speak up, kneel, stand or sit despite who likes it or not. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin surely must have known this, so must United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and other Cabinet members who reflect the diversity that makes America great.

It is in times like this that we remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful words from a Birmingham Jail, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”