It is with some trepidation that I address today’s subject matter, knowing it is an emotional issue for many.
Just as I have stated in the past with regard to my opinions, I do not in any way claim to be the last word or any type of authoritative source. After you read this, you might say I’m just wishy-washy, and that would probably be with some justification.
This is a topic that seems to have taken on a life of its own, one I hope is brief. But as an observer of news, and at the risk of helping prolong that life, I feel inclined to weigh in.
It’s the matter of the NFL and the choice of some players to kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest.
It started last year when one player, Colin Kaepernick, took a knee for the purpose of protesting racism in this country.
He was met with a fair amount of criticism from fans and fellow players, but no small amount of support also. Today he’s out of a job, and there are varying opinions on whether or not it has anything to do with the stance he took.
There were players who followed his lead and a national conversation ensued regarding what was perceived by many as a lack of respect vs. the constitutional right of free speech and expression.
Many fans expressed dismay and some spoke with their feet (and wallets) as they chose to abandon their teams. Owners and coaches walked a fine line.
Honestly, I thought it had all kind of died down.
That was until about ten days ago, when one Donald J. Trump decided to interject himself into the discussion. Speaking to a partisan crowd in Alabama, he chided NFL owners for not firing the players who kneel, making reference to said players with not-so- flattering terminology.
And all of a sudden, it’s a huge news item. The NFL Commissioner responded to the President, essentially saying he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. More and more players took knees before games last weekend and some, including the Titans, chose to stay in the locker room while the anthem was played.
Many more fans have become outraged and are apparently turning their backs on their teams. Time will tell as to how widespread that will become and what kind of staying power it has.
As for me, I regret the players have chosen this form of protest, while understanding their reasoning. I know racism still exists and that African-Americans contend with challenges of which I know very little.
I don’t know what it is like to have someone immediately be suspicious of me simply because of my color, or walk the other way when they see me coming.
Because I grew up around racism, I try to be especially sensitive to it and go out of my way to fight and help prevent it. But because I have not walked in the shoes of an African-American citizen, I cannot fully empathize with his or her plight.
Still, because these football players are paid very well and have done very well under the American free enterprise system, I wish they would have chosen another way of airing their grievances.
Rightly and wrongly, I’m afraid many Americans simply see what they believe to be overpaid athletes calling attention to themselves. I am not a big fan of the NFL and I don’t attend Titans games on a regular basis. Over the years I have had the occasional invitation to go and if one of those comes my way this year, I will gladly accept it. I don’t particularly agree with the team sitting out the national anthem, but that’s not going to be a deal killer for an afternoon of entertainment.
But if fans do choose to stop going, that is their right, and the players are going to have to live with that, even as they defend their own right of free speech via their protests.
My final thought on is regarding President Trump.
Why did he need to get involved in this? Last I looked, the NFL is a private enterprise. Heads of private enterprises have the right to run them as they see fit.
There have been a number of national disasters lately. North Korea is knocking at the door.
Congress can’t seem to pass a new health-care act. And we sorely need tax reform.
So there is plenty keep the president busy.
My thought is the NFL Commissioner, coaches and players should be able to do their jobs and, unless they are breaking laws, should not encounter interference from anyone in government. By now they know the risks of the actions they are taking and will have to live with the consequences.
Likewise, the leader of the free world would do well to turn his attention to the aforementioned weightier matters.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.