As an US Army retiree, I figured I’d offer my solutions to the situation surrounding NFL protests, equality and the President of the United States.
This issue has divided sports fans and citizens alike, and made its way all the way up to the White House for the President to offer his opinion on the matter. First off, we need to establish some things that everyone with an opinion on the protests should understand and agree with even if it pisses them off.
- The protest is not about the flag, anthem, or veterans.
- Colin Kaepernick originally was sitting, but spoke with Nate Boyer and came to an agreement that kneeling would be better.
- Kaepernick has stated up front that his protest was not about veterans.
- There is no NFL rule that requires players to stand for the anthem.
- The NFL players originally weren’t on the field for the anthem until the Department of Defense paid the NFL to help with recruitment.
- Displaying the flag horizontally during the anthem is a violation of US flag code as well as many other violations of the US flag code that are blatantly ignored such as worn while not a member of the military, altered in design, worn as a garment, etc.
- This country was founded by protest, and every single social movement from fighting for independence to women’s rights, voting rights, and civil rights has started with a protest.
- Protests are meant to disrupt and make people uncomfortable.
I know most of those factual statements will upset some people, but that does not make them any less factual. Sometimes the truth hurts when it does not match your opinion, sorry.
Now that’s out of the way, here is my three-step process to resolve the protests, the reason for the protests, and help end this social/racial divide in the country.
#1 The NFL needs to back its black players
The NFL is a billion-dollar industry built off the blood and sweat of black players. This is not pre-1960’s NFL where most of the league is white and teams could be purchased for a few hundred thousand dollars. 80%-85% of the league is black and most of its stars are black men. Most of the protests are being done by black players trying to convey the plight and struggle of unheard people of color in this country. I haven’t heard one player saying they were oppressed, experienced racism, missed an opportunity because of the color of their skin. They are speaking on behalf of the unheard. Trying to dismiss and silence these men is more of the ugly history of the United States. Black Americans were dismissed and silenced for about 190 of the first 200 years of this country, and silencing these players seems a lot like we’re in those 190 years.
We’ve seen the NFL put more support behind convicts, domestic abusers, murderers, animal killers, racists, rapists and hundreds of other bad men. Some of these people weren’t even removed as the face of a team or the NFL itself, yet the NFL can’t get behind a stance of “Please tell the police to stop killing people that look like me. Or if they are killed, can there at least be an investigation and trial? Maybe fire a couple people you know are hot heads before they get a chance to kill unarmed men?”
#2 The President needs to acknowledge the reason for the protest
I wouldn’t expect Mr. Trump to support the players protesting. He’s already made his choice and tweeted, and spoke out about it a dozen times, so I wouldn’t expect him to change. What Mr. Trump needs to do is simply acknowledge the reason behind the protest. A simple statement like, “I would like the players to stand, but I understand the reason why they are not. There are some social injustice issues that need to be addressed, and I am willing to listen.” This simple step would help minimize the divide we have without changing his stance. Calling the players “Sons of bitches” and demanding they stand draws a clear line in the sand for people to choose a side. Mr. Trump has not allowed people to agree with one and ignore the other. You must pick a side and defend it against others or you’re unamerican or a sellout. There is no middle ground on this playing field.
#3 Create councils in the cities where professional sports teams are located
Create a council or commission in every city there is a professional sports team that wants to participate where the players get to sit down with the local police department and local government to discuss issues. Meet monthly, quarterly, or bi-annually, and have a platform for players to get socially active in their communities and take the issues of the people to the police. The Mayor, City Council, Police Chief, Sheriff, etc. have a difficult time understanding the complaints of a grieving mother or the chants from a protest because everyone has skin in the game. The mother is defending her child that she believes is innocent. The police defend their officer they believe is innocent. The local government tries to play the middle man while wondering how much the settlement to the family will cost. The protests are disruptive and sometimes seem like an attack on the police.
Creating councils and commissions allows players to become active in their communities and get the issues straight from the people, and relay that in a neutral environment to the people that can affect change in these communities. I see this as a win-win for everyone involved. Athletes can be leaders in their community, police and city leaders can hear issues in a neutral environment and discuss ways to improve the relationship with the people they serve.
In summary, the answers to the protests, reasons behind the protest, hate towards the protests, division within the country can all be solved by grown men acting like grown men. Listen to those asking to be heard, and stop putting your thumbs in your ears like a 3-year old acting like you don’t hear what people have been telling you for a while. The leadership at the top, will need to act like leaders and be willing to hear the issues of the people without bias. We need to stop picking sides and refusing to hear the other man’s issues.