The NFL Player Protests

Reading time – 3:12; Viewing time – 4:54  .  .  .

Most people feel their safety threatened when their treasured beliefs are challenged or even just questioned. And when our tectonic plates rumble beneath our feet, we get scared, then angry, then aggressive, wanting to drive away the threat. Think back to the violent reactions some had over flag burning in the 70s, as that symbol to some was far more bedrock to others. More currently, one person texted to me last Sunday about how upset she was that so many athletes were doing such an unpatriotic thing taking a knee during the playing of our National Anthem. Clearly, her tectonic plates got shaken, even though protest is very patriotic. Our nation was birthed in it.

All of that is not to demonize such folks. It’s to recognize the limbic reaction we people have when our cherished notions that keep us feeling safe in the world get smacked. We humans usually don’t do well when our solidity in space is questioned, or in tolerating ambiguity, uncertainty or complex thoughts, especially when the complex thoughts are conflicting, so we want to do something to restore our sense of safety.

As a result of Sunday’s protests, nothing has happened to our National Anthem, the flag, our military people both past and present or our belief in American exceptionalism. Nobody has been harmed. The country is no less secure. It might be argued (and make no mistake, I am arguing) that our country is better for the courage of some to stand up to injustice. Indeed, if your brother or your father had been shot in the back by a South Carolina cop and that cop was found innocent of murder, it’s pretty likely you’d have something to say about that and your volume would be dialed up to 11.

Rodney King was beaten almost to death by 4 Los Angeles cops in 1991 and then the cops were found innocent of charges of assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force. The LA riots began immediately after that verdict.

Injustice will not go without confrontation forever. People will respond. I submit that taking a knee in protest of injustice is a far better way to make a statement than burning our cities. America was not hurt by the NFL players, even as chest thumping flag wavers are distorting the message of the protesters to suit their biases.

I love my country and get a lump in my throat whenever we celebrate it. That doesn’t mean, though, that I will tolerate everything that goes on in my country. The list of my intolerables includes the “whites only” sign that I saw on the side of a bait shop in Arkansas when I was a kid, the cop violence to blacks for 400 years, the last-hired-first-fired lot of people with brown skin, the dismissing of friends and allies and the coddling of tyrants, the assault on our ideals – any and all of it, I will not tolerate it.

Let’s make this personal. My dad flew a P-47 based in England during WW II. His war stories dribbled out over the years, one of which put fire in his eyes half a century after the fact. One day his virulently anti-Semitic CO picked him as his wing man and they ran into a sky full of Messerschmitt Bf-109s. It wasn’t long before my dad found himself alone against a swarm of bad guys – his CO had abandoned him in a dog fight. Dad made it back to base and confronted his CO. Days later the CO left him in the middle of a fight once more. When he got back to base Dad again went looking for his CO, this time with his officer’s sidearm in his hand. The good news is that others stopped him before he found the CO and that abandonment scene wasn’t repeated. Injustice must be confronted, although I don’t recommend the .45 caliber pistol method of communication.

Here’s the point. It takes courage to stay the course when those on your side are somehow not on your side, and I honor my dad for having done that. There is a parallel between his story and that of the NFL players, whose fellow citizens are supposed to be on the same side with them, but somehow are not.

However it’s done, injustice must be confronted and it always takes courage to do so. So I honor those NFL players who took a knee to confront injustice, knowing they would be roundly criticized for their action.

We must stand up to injustice, because it’s the only way things will get better and we will begin to live into the promise of America.

Have a look at what John Pavlovitz has to say about this.

And here’s what Bob Costas had to say. And Stephen Colbert.

Thanks go to J.C. for prompting me to tell this story.


If you’ll be in the Chicago area on October 4, come join us for a presentation by Mike Papantonio, host of Ring of Fire Radio. Here’s a link to get tickets. Space is limited, so, “Don’t you wait and be too late.” This promises to be a terrific evening for those who continue to believe we can be better.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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