Don’t get it confused. There’s hardly anything patriotic about preventing U.S. citizens from expressing their amended rights.
In 2012, Tim Tebow knelt during the National Anthem before several games and was highly praised. This upcoming season, a new policy will require NFL players and team personnel to stand during the anthem and if they choose not to, teams will be subjected to fines -- although they have the option to remain in the locker room.
It’s clear and simple: the new anthem policy instituted by the NFL is not, and has never been, about the flag or patriotism, it’s about silencing freedom of speech. Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s billionaire owners badly missed the mark on this issue and there’s no way around it. If you thought last year’s protests were detrimental to the league, this upcoming season will play out as a colossal PR disaster for the kings of American professional sports.
The executive director of the NFL Player’s Association, DeMaurice Smith, shared a series of tweets following the NFL’s decision, highlighting the blatant short-sightedness by the NFL and its owners.
“History has taught us that both patriotism and protest are like water; if the force is strong enough it cannot be suppressed,” Smith tweeted. “Today, the CEOs of the NFL created a rule that people who hate autocracies should reject.
“Management has chosen to quash the same freedom of speech that protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to prevent someone who does not wish to do so. The sad irony of this rule is that anyone who wants to express their patriotism is subject to the whim of a person who calls himself an ‘owner.’”
By far the most asinine aspect of this controversy is the amount of hypocrisy Goodell and the NFL continue to fling around while they want you (the consumers) to think they’re stewards of American ideals.
They’re absolutely fooling you, and it shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out.
“These owners don’t love America more than the players demonstrating and taking real action to improve,” Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long tweeted. “It also lets you, the fan, know where our league stands.”
Look, I sympathize with opposition to this issue. I wholeheartedly understand that the flag is partly representative of the brave men and women who fought for our country’s freedoms. But, in our attempt to dictate how the flag should be recognized, we have lost sight as a country of what it truly means to be an American.
We have become closed-minded to the idea of individuals challenging our own personal convictions, and in this instance, have painted those NFL players who have chosen to kneel as unpatriotic. They aren’t protesting because they hate America. They’re protesting because they want America to be better.
This controversial decision by the NFL only works to shut the door on our freedom to exchange ideas. That’s where we are in this country. By the very standards of our flag, the new policy is un-American. From the civil rights sit-ins of the 1960s, to the campus protests during the Vietnam War, there has rarely been a situation where freedom of speech has not prevailed.
But, this is different.
Americans often struggle to embrace new ideas. That’s glaringly evident in this situation.
A person who has little patience for listening to someone speak with a different voice ignores the First Amendment’s purpose: to promote the free exchange of a wide range of views and opinions. So, many turned a blind eye to Colin Kaepernick and other players’ kneeling because their reasoning didn’t fit their narrative. They viewed the issues of police brutality and inequality the way they did because in their eyes, the issues don’t affect them.
As for the argument of, ‘you make millions of dollars playing a game, those injustices don’t impact you,’ the point is sorely missed. Just because their reasons for kneeling don’t match up with fans’ views of what the flag represents, doesn’t mean their First Amendment rights should be diminished.
In my eyes, a man who takes a knee understands the true value of living in a country where freedom of expression is allowed. He recognizes that this freedom is what sets us apart from countries such as China and North Korea, where speech is censored by government.
A true injustice to this country would be continuing to allow the 1 percent to dictate what patriotism should look like.
With that, I leave you with the words of our first president, George Washington. Words that are just as relevant today as they were in 1783.
“The freedom of speech may be taken away -- and, dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.”