In a recent posting on Facebook, I shared a news article and this quote from an Indiana politician who filed a bill to make the Indianapolis Colts refund the ticket price to any fan claiming to be offended by a Colt player kneeling during the playing of the national anthem:
“To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it’s not respecting the national anthem or our country,” Smith said (via the Indy Star). “Our government isn’t perfect, but it’s still the best country in the world and I think we need to be respectful of it.”
My take: The politician says that people should forego their first amendment rights to criticize their government. I found that chilling.
Yet when I shared the story and that thought and quote on Facebook, I received a comment that left me wondering how the commentator could have missed the point. I support the right of black men, even NFL athletes, to protest even during the pregame ceremonies of a football game. It is their right protected by the First Amendment.
The comment: That's right Greg, you said it best. It's not RESPECTING THE ANTHEM AND OUR COUNTRY. It's being DISRESPECTFUL, DISRESPECTFUL TO ALL THE GREAT MEN AND WOMEN THAT SERVED THIS COUNTRY, and many of these GREAT men and women suffered great injury and many died so these pieces of DUNG could take a knee. There are many other great ways to protest police brutality. But all those players were and are too damn DUMB to figure this out.
How could this commenter miss the point?
Then I realized I am missing the point and it goes way beyond the protest of black men about the systemic racism black men experience every moment of their lives in America.
It is about the militaristic quality of our current culture and how the NFL has embraced that, imbuing patriotism, the flag, and the military as an essential part of its entertainment offering, making a sporting game an expression of American dominance and superiority to the rest of the world, seeking cultural hegemony through its attempts to expand across a globe that would rather play soccer and maybe the NFL takes it as the ultimate insult that the world calls soccer the sport of ‘football.’
Our democracy is in danger in its glorification of the military, in its embrace of a kick-ass culture, in its adoption of gladiators as the ultimate heroes.
Already we are creating the military as a special class of citizenship: a few years ago, Florida voters approved a state constitutional amendment that gives veterans an extra property tax exemption that other citizens cannot get.
Don’t tell me that I hate the military. I am grateful to the men and women who choose to serve. But I don’t think that entitles them to special privileges.
And I reject the NFL’s appropriation of a militaristic culture to enhance the entertainment value of its games.
Today I will say that maybe the critics are right: to take a knee in protest is disrespectful of the military because of the background in what the NFL has done in promoting itself as a domestic battlefield in which fans can witness in person the soldiery now glorified.
But that is why this is so very, very wrong.
I remain a Jaguars fan and will continue to root for them in hopes of one day reaching the Super Bowl and bringing this city a championship. But the militaristic aspect in the marketing? The sooner that’s flushed into the sewer, the better.