I stand for the national anthem. Always have. Always will. When I stand, it is not out of respect or reverence for the flag, but the ideals and freedoms it represents.
Like it or not, those freedoms include the right to sit or kneel during the national anthem, or any other ceremony embraced by the majority. The right to peaceful protest is a bedrock American value codified in the Constitution. Free speech is for everyone, not just those we agree with.
Texas and Florida are still reeling from the effects of massive hurricanes, millions of Americans in Puerto Rico may be without electricity for months, half of Montana is on fire, North Korea is North Korea, Senate Republicans are resorting to naked bribery to buy enough votes to strip health care coverage from 30 million Americans and all anyone is talking about is NFL players refusing to stand for the national anthem.
That’s just what President Trump wanted when he called former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” and challenged NFL owners to “fire” players who dare exercise their civil rights on the national stage.
It’s called diversion and no one does it better than The Donald. As long as we are up in arms over athletes kneeling while millions of Americans kick back in recliners, trivial topics like Russian meddling in our elections get lost in the hue and cry.
For the record, NFL players have only been on the sidelines for the national anthem since 2009, after the Department of Defense began paying the league millions in taxpayer money to market the armed forces. Maybe some of you are mad because we paid for the players to stand and look patriotic, and they won’t play along.
Or maybe you are genuinely offended, which is your absolute right, as is your right to express that offense. You are also free to vote with your wallets. If you don’t like the NFL’s handling of this issue, stop watching the games and buying the merchandise.
The NFL is a $10 billion a year business. It exists to make money. It will get by without you. It will also shrug off Trump’s empty calls for a boycott. The last time Trump lined up against the NFL was in 1984, when he owned the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League (USFL). Like most Trump ventures, the league offered a sub-par product that didn’t deliver the grandiose results he promised to investors. The USFL was a put-on, and so is Trump’s phony outrage over the sideline protests.
I stand for the national anthem. Always have. Always will. But I cannot in good conscience stand by a president who took five deferments to avoid military service and who somehow finds black athletes kneeling more anti-American than white supremacists waving swastikas and confederate flags.
On any given Sunday, I’d rather take a knee with Kaepernick than stand with Trump.