If only it was for prayer… If you want Joe’s opinion (which I doubt you do, but hey, you clicked on my blog) I’ll give it in a nutshell. Players should get to do whatever they want. Owners should get to do whatever they want. The NFL should get to do whatever they want. Networks should get to do whatever they want. News outlets should get to do whatever they want. And viewers should get to do whatever they want. Now the President shouldn’t get involved with a private enterprise, he should be dealing with national security issues; but obviously Donald Trump is going to do whatever he wants.
I know this is an emotionally charged issue. Veterans, Racism, Patriotism, Police, and Trump are all trending topics on this one issue. But honestly, I don’t think this should be a top 5 News Story. The problem is, it has all the elements that News Media outlets and the general public absolutely eat-up. It has elements of what it is to be American, it has a Black Lives Matter and racial component to it, it’s divisive enough to split the country into at least thirds (always an important modern news element), its now got the most controversial man on planet earth, D.T., right in the center, and it’s got the most popular sport in America – foosball. I think we hit an interesting crossroads this past weekend. Which was once a somewhat isolated sports issue, is now a pop-culture issue and that means celebrities, politicians, and the billions upon billions of internet-famous people will now all dig their heels in and take sides. I think Colin Kaepernick had a fair take – he basically didn’t think black people are treated fairly in America and he wanted to peacefully protest and bring attention to it. Whether I would go about bringing the awareness the way he did is not the point; I always think the same thing – people can do what they want (but that doesn’t mean they don’t face consequences.) The problem with this particular stance is 3-fold:
1) I think this all got way bigger than he anticipated (or any of the early adopters). I think more people got offended and angry than they anticipated, and it was never designed to have some sort of central leadership for what the goals of this protest was supposed to achieve. It was just an awareness campaign, and I definitely don’t think it was super-well-thought-out at the early stages. It just kind of morphed like all these sorts of things do.
2) So now I think there are 42 different reasons why people are kneeling or holding arms. I’ve personally heard – police brutality, black lives matter, solidarity, anti-Donald Trump, freedom, and respect. And I’m sure I missed some.
3) I don’t think there is any way to end this now. If there is a month without an unjustified police shooting will the protest end? (Well we’ve already had that.) Will it end when black lives matter? What metric will people look at to determine that? What about when there is solidarity? When media stops trying to divide us? When Donald Trump is out of office? Impeached? Has laryngitis? Has his Twitter account suspended? And terms like freedom and respect are equally as hard to qualify? So when will the kneeling logically end? I think we all know the answer. When every last bit of media coverage is sucked out of this, and something more interesting happens and when there are no questions and no attention, probably everything goes back to some kind of normalcy.
So saying that, here are the News Stories that couldn’t dethrone NFL players kneeling:
1) A Church Shooting by a Sudanese (immigrant, terrorist, man – I don’t know what terms I’m supposed to use any more)
2) North Korea saying America has declared war on them
3) Puerto Rico is absolutely wrecked by the hurricanes
4) Government sponsored Healthcare Issues Galore
5) CTE (serious brain trauma) found in 110 out of 111 former NFL player brains (that’s right, I don’t think the kneeling is the biggest NFL story this week.)
Let’s get down to brass tacks (not sure why we use that expression but you get the point.) Do the NFL players have a point that should be boycotted?
I still think the message for the kneeling needs to be clearer. I think some are just doing it because others are and some are kneeling for really vague amorphous reasons. Just so we can talk about something I’ll give you Kaepernick’s exact quote the first time he kneeled (before Trump was even elected FYI): “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people are getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Is that worthy of a boycott? Seems like as good a reason as any I guess. Again, I don’t think I’d kneel during the National Anthem as my protest for this issue, but if my experiences growing up were totally different, who knows. To use another sports analogy let’s look at the baseball pitcher Cy Young. If you want to argue who the greatest pitcher ever was, you might argue for the guy. He has the most wins in MLB history with 511. Second place has 417 and third place as 373. The most wins by an active pitcher (Bartolo Colon) is 239. So yeah, Cy Young was pretty great. But it’s interesting to point out that Cy Young is also the all-time leader in losses with 316. (Weirdly enough the “top” 7 players with the most losses are all in the Hall of Fame.) So is Cy Young the greatest or the worst? It’s a cop-out (pardon the expression) to say neither. He’s either great or he’s not. You either want him on your team or you don’t. I tend to feel like America is the same way. I say it’s pretty great. It has flaws for sure, but I want to live here. If you look for the negative, there’s plenty to find, but at the end of the day, it’s great.
I think most people’s issue with the kneeling is who is doing it, where they’re doing it, and when they’re doing it. The people participating in this “boycott” of the national anthem are millionaires who are far richer than almost everyone watching them play, and they are disproportionately involved in violent crimes. Where they are “boycotting” is also problematic for people as sports is one of the last bastions of absolute truth left. The best team that day wins the game. Rich and poor, black and white, republican and democrat are all fans of the same teams. It’s uniting, and we like that. But now sports have been politicized. The favorite athlete of the 90’s said, “Republicans buy shoes too” and thus Michael Jordon never got involved in the politics of his day. And “when” they are boycotting is during the National Anthem which is far more linked to Americanism and veterans than it is to the police and the like.
Now to counter this argument, if a person who was really experiencing oppression kneeled during the national anthem, no one would ever know about it… or care. So to bring awareness it takes people with a platform to communicate their plight. Now I hate when I just frame issues and never actually give opinion, so I’ll try to actually say something here. Here are my 5 concluding thoughts:
1) To NFL Players – I don’t think this particular action will bring you any more awareness to your cause. It has jumped the shark. The story got away from you and it is only dividing our country and not healing it.
2) To Viewers – Off social media and either in person or on private message, talk to someone on your feed who views this issue the opposite of you. (Preferably someone you think you kind of like if it wasn’t for them having a different opinion than you.) Only listen to their viewpoint and don’t give yours unless they ask.
3) To Owners – Dialogue with your players, and bring in some other high profile people in your community that have a different opinion as well. Start working together on a way for everyone to communicate what’s truly important to them in a productive way.
4) To All Famous People – Get involved in your communities. Black lives do matter. Help set-up after school programs in communities of color, create businesses specifically geared toward training and hiring people in high risk areas, and then find a new way to bring awareness to more specific problems. Using terms like “institutional oppression” without specificity is guaranteed to never accomplish anything.
5) To Christians – Learn from this event occurring in our culture. Being angry at players or the media or the NFL or all society is not productive. James 1:19 tells us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. This doesn’t say to not speak. Just to listen first, and don’t be quick to get angry. There are far more important battles for the souls of the people of our country. We need to kneel. We need to start a kneeling campaign that spreads far beyond just Sundays at 1pm, 4pm and a few primetime spots. Our kneeling needs to be daily. And we need to be unified as to why – to see souls saved by the grace of Jesus Christ.