What’s Wrong with Taking a Knee?

The country is outraged, well, at least some people are, that a professional athlete who is making a small fortune playing a sport, would have the gall to not stand at the playing of our national anthem. The nerve of that guy; he ought to be traded or fined, or banned from the sport! Never mind that this “taking a knee” was a form of protest and call for justice against the rash of incidents where law enforcement officers (real or imagined) were shooting or strangling black men, young and old, and getting away with it.

I’m no different from the tens of millions of American fans, family members, and friends who have attended sporting events (and other events) and witnessed people in the stands, young and old, who were talking, giggling, eating, or moving about while the national anthem was being played. Where was the outrage? Shouldn’t we all be singing the anthem together? What about the media people who run around filming those who take a knee? What about the vendors? Where’s their reverence? Do they get some kind of waiver that authorizes them to not show respect to the flag and anthem? No, they don’t! And, we don’t mind, do we? As long as they don’t create a disturbance or bring unnecessary attention to themselves. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and now hundreds of other athletes and celebrities, wasn’t creating any disturbance or preventing anyone from hearing the anthem or seeing the flag.

As a retired Army officer, Vietnam Veteran, and Gold Star father, I’m about as patriotic as they come. Disrespecting our American flag was not a good idea around me, and still isn’t. I’ve lost entirely too many colleagues and friends who took an oath to our country to support and defend our constitution. And, while my son, a West Point graduate, Army Captain, Desert Storm veteran, husband, father, and hero, served with the utmost of patriotism, he just happened to be a Black man. So am I. We lost that son while he was serving his country. Before that, my wife and I were always fearful of our son having an encounter with a law enforcement officer because of widespread harassment, unfair apprehension, mistreatment, and, sometimes, abuse.  My father was a career policeman, and two of his brothers were policemen. Yet, he felt obligated to advise me about my behavior if I were “stopped” by law enforcement. My wife and I had to do the same with our son. So, while I don’t condone “taking a knee,” I do understand the message. This isn’t a new problem; it existed long before Trayvon Martin, or Ferguson, and I also know that it has nothing to do with disrespecting our flag or anthem, and everything to do with justice in our country, the country that my father (World War II), myself (Vietnam), and my son (Desert Storm) proudly served.

So, let’s get this straight. If you have an ax to grind about this taking a knee business and disrespect of the national anthem and flag, let’s start with our kids and neighbors and friends and fellow fans who are consistently irreverent. Let’s start at home and work our way out. It is total hypocrisy to overlook those around us and just point to athletes and celebrities who “take a knee” for a reason that might not be obvious to you. Colin Kaepernick doesn’t need to be martyred; he needs to be playing. This whole matter has gotten way out of proportion. When the President makes comments that are not well thought out or advised, we end up with the morass that currently exists. Statements encouraging law enforcement officers to “rough’em up” have no place in the discourse and further compound the reasons why people “take a knee.”

Let’s get the politics out of the discussion…..yes, that’s what it ought to be, a discussion. If a professional athlete or celebrity is willing to take some heat and risk their career for a cause, then there just might be something to it.  I don’t, for one minute, question their patriotism. I wouldn’t “take a knee” or recommend it, but I, and countless others, defended their right to freedom of expression. I, for one, want to see the game, not the political rally; that’s on a different channel.

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