When did kneeling become disrespectful? And since when did singing the national anthem at sporting events become about the military? Apparently since Donald Trump declared it, for he has an uncanny ability to convince people that what he says is true even if it is not.
The kneeling protests by men Mr. Trump disrespects by calling them names, are about drawing the country’s attention to injustice. David Leonhardt of The New York Times says the protests were not effective, but I disagree. The protests were effective until Friday, 22 September, when the president successfully twisted the meaning of kneeling from an attitude of respect to one of disrespect and brought the military, the flag, and the nation into the discussion, not to mention he called the protesting players s.o.b.’s. The president has been allowed — by the media, his “base,” and the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones — to hijack the players’ intended focus and purpose.
I include Jerry Jones in my discussion because it was just two weeks ago that Jones was kneeling with his players on the sidelines and linking elbows with them during the national anthem. Today he is parroting Donald Trump saying that any Cowboys “disrespectful to the flag” will be benched. But as I explained earlier, kneeling is not disrespectful, and the purpose of the protests is to highlight — and stop — the injustice of the police killing unarmed African Americans and other people of color.
Fortunately, NFL Players’ Association executive director DeMaurice Smith revealed today that NFL owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell had “promised in a meeting last week ‘that they would respect the constitutional rights of our members without retribution.'”
Ever since I was a child, I understood kneeling as a sign of respect or reverence. I was taught to kneel at my bedside to say my prayers at night, something I did with awe and respect. I do not know of anyone who kneels out of disrespect. It seems I was mistaken when I wrote that “every other thinking American” understands what the kneeling protests are about, they are about justice, not disrespect.