Sports and Politics: You Don't Understand What Taking a Knee is Really About (Opinion)
It's really a sad state we are in when the dominant headline this weekend is something that in a perfect world should not be an issue at all.
For those of you living under a rock---on Friday night, the person holding the job title as "President" made a speech to a large group of people in a Northern Alabama Echo Chamber, calling out and cursing out NFL Football players for trying to draw attention to an issue that affects millions of African-Americans.
And somehow the issue instead of focusing on the reason for the gesture---has become about what one side of the political spectrum or the other thinks it is about.
Believe me, there is a LARGE difference in what one side or the other thinks. For one side it is about freedom of speech and attention to a societal problem; the other side---it's all about a political symbol.
Despite what your Social Media feed and a certain Cable News outlet along with a Certain Mis-Informed Politician and your Echo Chamber tells you, taking a knee for the National Anthem is NOT about hatred. It is not about turning your back on a country or the place you live. At its most elemental, it's about "FREEDOM OF SPEECH".
Oh, and in case you are wondering, those of you who don't get it---you have a right to voice your displeasure too. No problems there. All of you are and should be able to voice your disagreement if you disagree.
BUT...if you are going to call these athletes names and spew hatred towards them or tell them they should leave the country---UNDERSTAND what the issue is about and have your facts straight.
This all started just over a year ago when Colin Kaepernick--then a backup QB for the San Francisco 49ers decided he wanted to make a social statement about the issues facing African American males in their dealings with police. It came on the heels of a string of traffic stops that resulted in two men getting killed for what would have been minor traffic stops.
As a back-up, Kaepernick not standing for the anthem would not have been noticed if for not it being an exhibition game broadcast locally where they actually showed the anthem being performed. During the regular season as a general rule---that never happens.
Several players once they realized what Kaepernick was doing joined in. But the move angered some people--mostly those at a certain Cable News outlet who has perfected the art of "Fake Outrage" or getting you riled up about minutia. The gesture quickly went from trying to let people know someone didn't like what was happening in society to---"He hates America" "He's disrespecting the military" or "He's a millionaire, he has to stand". Many of you say---"Leave the Country"---to that I say, "Do you believe in Blind Faith" or should one have the ability to question what they disagree with??
In other words---the issue became Politicized.
Last I checked---you have the freedom to express a concern over an issue in our country. And you have the ability to disagree with it or not like it. That should NOT be the issue. Yet it is. So many of you who say "They (players) are disrespecting the flag so many fought so hard for" are totally missing the point. Completely. Read about this a little more. Do you not understand that the military and volunteers fought so hard for the right to do just exactly what these athletes are trying to do??
For those of you who buy into the whole "If they don't stand, fire them theory", you REALLY don't get it. What would you like your athletes to be? Perfect slaves on the plantation who say "Yes, boss" and "Absolutely sir?" Far too many of you complaining are the same ones who say "Athletes should be role models and use their jobs for the greater good". That's exactly what these guys are trying to do.
If any of you have ever spent time in an NFL Locker Room you'd have a much better understanding of why the players, owners and NFL management are all in lockstep about this now. (I spent 10+ years covering the Atlanta Falcons, getting to know many of the players) Team owners know the people in their locker rooms. They want very much for their players to be amazing people doing the right things for their communities and try very hard to help them achieve this. They also understand what taking a knee is all about.
NFL Athletes are not perfect people. They are more of a microcosm of society than any of you complaining about them would ever believe. They come from very, very different backgrounds and by the nature of what they do, come to understand, respect and appreciate each other for their differences. They try very hard to become a united team, act and react as one.
If only the rest of the world acted like them.....
Yes, there are athletes who've been arrested for a variety of very dumb crimes. And in most cases its because they lack life experience or do something stupid. In life--that happens in every group. Think about it. The majority of athletes I met over the course of my career love nothing more than helping those who need help. Why? Because an overwhelming percentage of the athletes come from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds. So many of them have either been or continued to be profiled or pulled over or questioned by police not for doing something illegal or wrong---but for being black.
Yes, you can also say if most athletes are good people, so are Police Officers. And you'd be 1000% correct. A vast majority of Police Officers do or try to do the right thing in each and every situation. But like all of us, they are not perfect. Every group has bad apples. In the case of a Police Officer---if they make a mistake or exercise bad judgement, it can cost someone their life. And that in many ways---is what this whole blowup is about.
Despite what you might see or here in the news, the majority of people in all walks of life are good people trying to do the right thing. What you see on TV or the Internet or Social Media about criminals or people doing stupid things is a far smaller percentage of the population than any of you can imagine.
You could even ask me---if that's the case--then why do you make somewhat disparaging posts about people that call you at work? A legitimate question. Those callers are a minutely small percentage of the population. They exist. Do I think everyone in their demographic is like that?? Absolutely not.
You could also ask me: Are you not a middle class white kid who had most of life's advantages? And I would answer yes. But I've also gone out of my way to meet, learn and befriend those from different backgrounds. Why? Because it makes me a better, more rounded person. I don't live my life in an Echo Chamber.
NFL Players are just like any other group of athletes. Mostly people are who suddenly thrust into the limelight with more money than they ever imagined having and not having the life experience to know what to do with it. And while I can't say 100% of them want to give back and make their communities a better place--almost all of them do.
You want an example??
On Tuesday, the Atlanta Falcons did a community outreach event to elementary schools all over Metro Atlanta. It was not a "Mandatory" event, it was something guys could do if they had the time.
All 53 players on the roster, every coach and several front office executives turned out. Why? Because it was a chance to go talk to and impact kids in inner city schools. Kids who need pep talks and people to look up to. Every chance they get.
Life in an Echo Chamber: I'm trying really hard to stay away from the person who triggered the most recent outrage. Despite his role, he's probably the least qualified person in the world to talk about doing something to help other people. I say this knowing full well the blowback from some that I'm going to get for saying it. But step back from your politics and look at the facts. What has this person actually done for anyone but himself??
Listen, I get some of you being outraged, being upset about an issue that you probably don't realize you know nothing about. There's an old saying that applies today in this "Social Media" era better than anything anyone (me included) could say today---"Walk a Mile in My Shoes".
Until you do it and see life from the perspective of what you'd call "Those Millionaire Athletes" (most of whom came from dirt-ass poor backgrounds) you've got no argument against them voicing their opinion.