NFL protests: Educate yourself

Michael Shipma

Sports Editor

This week, the worlds of politics and sports clashed on a national stage, and it revealed a lot about both sides of an issue that demands you pick a side.

As is the case in most political and sports debates, there are two sides that, regardless of fact, will stay true to their preconceived notions of what is right and wrong. However, we as students should take it upon ourselves in these situations to base our opinions on facts rather than emotions.

With that goal in mind, let’s look at the facts.

As many may already know, President Donald Trump made the controversial comment Friday that professional sport owners should fire any athletes who refuse to stand for the national anthem prior to their games. To take it one step further, the president also referred to players in the National Football League who protest during the playing of the anthem in an obscene and derogatory manner.

In response, players and teams from around the league made their individual and collective stances known, and with varying success. Players and owners alike locked arms, knelt or even remained in the locker room during the anthem in an effort to display unity against the president’s comments.

The response to these acts, as could be expected, was rife with criticism of these teams from fans and politicians.

The president also made his voice heard on the matter in his own fashion, taking to Twitter to call for the firing of protesting players as well as boycotts of teams who allowed protesting players to stay on the field.

On the other side, players, celebrities and the media likewise rallied against the president for his comments, calling for an apology.

Unfortunately, the ignorance surrounding this issue is astounding.

Firstly, you can’t look me in the eye and tell me that this is about protesting the flag of the United States or the national anthem. It’s not about that at all.

It’s about standing in unity against the president’s divisive comments that had the power to split the NFL into two warring sides. It’s about using the NFL’s pregame rituals as a platform to bring awareness to social injustices and divisive leadership in our country.

But for some reason, these acts have been misconstrued into disrespect for the flag, the military and the country as a whole. Nothing could be further from the truth. While we’re at it, don’t even get me started on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva. He’s not some hero because he stood alone during the national anthem while his team was in the locker room; he was kept on the field by accident and didn’t want to be disrespectful by leaving the field during the anthem.

His words, not mine.

Furthermore, it is utterly ridiculous that fans at Monday night’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals booed the Cowboys for kneeling before the anthem. The entire team stood arm-in-arm during the anthem to show respect, but made its stance on the president’s comments known by kneeling beforehand.

All that shows me is that people don’t even know what they’re booing about, just like they don’t know what they’re praising when they call Villanueva a hero for what he did on Sunday.

Lastly, if you haven’t read Section 176 of the U.S. Flag Code, I encourage you to do so before pointing fingers and calling certain things disrespectful. You’d be surprised how many times our flag gets disrespected. But as long as it makes money, it’s all good, right?

So folks, educate yourselves. Find the facts, base your opinion on them, and if you disagree with me or anyone else, that’s fine. It’s your right to have a different opinion than me because we live in a country that protects — even welcomes — dissenting opinions. Isn’t that what the flag and the national anthem stand for?

The actions of some say otherwise. To them, you can say or do whatever you want as long as it agrees with their own beliefs. Nothing could be more ignorant or anti-First Amendment than this.

Where would we be without those who go against the status quo? Hasn’t history shown us time and time again that those who refuse to stand idle in the face of injustice are the ones who make progress toward equality? Isn’t every human being, regardless of race, religion or gender, entitled to peacefully express their own opinions?

I think if you asked Benjamin Franklin, Susan B. Anthony or Martin Luther King Jr., they’d agree with me.

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