I am not a football fan. Just as I was getting interested in football — in high school, my boyfriend was a defensive tackle — one of our Central High School players was made a quadraplegic on the football field. My interest in the sport evaporated that very day. So why do I care about the National Football League’s kerfuffle with its players and Donald Trump? I care and believe everyone should because the majority of the kneeling players are African Americans whom Mr. Trump has attacked and lied about and whose First Amendment rights are being infringed upon by him and the NFL.
Last month, the NFL owners, in a supposed “compromise” on players kneeling during the national anthem announced that players who want to kneel during the “Star Spangled Banner” before each game can do so. In the locker room. I say “supposed compromise” because the players were not included in the decision-making, so it is the owners and NFL Commissioner Goodell who compromised.
What kind of foolishness is that? As American citizens, the players have a right to protest pretty much when and where they please. The kneelers are protesting police shootings of African-American men and boys and inequities in the criminal justice system, and effective protests don’t occur behind closed doors. The players who kneel are not being disrespectful of the flag or the military as the president incorrectly asserts. As a matter of fact, kneeling is not disrespectful at all, or people would not do it when they pray.
Donald Trump has managed to put the fear of the presidency into the NFL owners, and suggested that players who don’t stand for the national anthem are unpatriotic and should not be in the United States. That’s outrageous! What is he going to do, deport them?
It is my hope that the NFL players will not be cowed by Trump or the owners. It is my hope that they will continue to kneel in protest before the games. And it is my hope that the owners and fans will see and understand and do something about the inequities and wrongful deaths being protested.