I’ve been hesitant to jump into the kneeling/standing/athletes fray since so much has been written, said, argued and even flaunted from many different perspectives, angles and passions.
However, living in a country in which free speech, dissent and protest are welcomed in proper settings is going to garner ongoing clashes of individuals, groups and societies. And we must continue to navigate and hopefully use those times in healthy, helpful ways rather than take actions that alienate and even dishonor others, intentionally or otherwise.
And that’s the main problem I see with the current, very public and in my thinking misguided choices of athletes and others of late as they have been making their sincere protests visible. Let me suggest several problems with using athletic contests to make political, personal statements.
1. Their demonstration is out of context and one-sided. If they were protesting their athletic pension fund, too little concussion research or the cost to attend games that would make sense. Instead, their issues became clouded and actions disrespectful because they simply chose a platform the rest of us don’t have. It also unfairly suggests that their issue affords this kind of attention and disruption of a major event while others apparently do not.
2. The demonstrations are a needless distraction. People paid high dollars to bring their families to watch a game. Many of the children are not old enough to understand the issues anyway and for parents to explain it further at the game or at home will not help either. Rather than add to the fun of the day, for which they are being paid handsomely in most cases, the players merely added to the confusion for many.
3. There are better platforms and actions that will accomplish far more. If you want to protest, go where that protest will actually accomplish something. Go protest before meeting with city officials to help solve the problem. Go protest by rallying others to do the same and actually make a difference. Go protest by cleaning up some of the problems in neighborhoods or businesses that are exacerbating the problems.
4. Remember where your freedom came from. To protest during the anthem for a country in which you have the greatest freedoms and largest rewards of any country in the world to do what you do only dishonors the people who have worked hard, fought valiantly and protested appropriately in the past to give you those benefits. We can still protest without hurting or defaming others in the process.
Imagine if a seven-year-old boy or girl were having a birthday party with lots of friends and their parents. And right in the middle of the party, one of the parents puts up a sign on the wall of the room expressing their views about the new taxes that the local community is going to assess.
Wouldn’t we say that this was the wrong context, that it was a needless distraction, that there are better platforms for his comments and that this person was actually dishonoring the child at the party by protesting in this way? Of course we would. It’s common sense.
So maybe we would be wise to add a little more common sense to our discourse and disagreements by finding better ways to make our statements while welcoming those of others. And let’s let the games be that . . . games.