Home > Uncategorized > “Take a Knee or Take a Seat” Policies in Public Sports Likely to Create a Turmoil

“Take a Knee or Take a Seat” Policies in Public Sports Likely to Create a Turmoil

Earlier this week I was distressed over what I viewed to be the extreme attention being diverted to the question of the NFL players’ decisions to stage various forms of protest in response to President Trump’s inflammatory and needless tweets regarding an action a second string QB took over a year ago. But now I am starting to see that the President’s actions might result in a net benefit. Why?

First and foremost, it is calling attention to the righteousness of the rationale for Colin Kaepernick’s initial protest. As noted in an NYTimes article by Kaepernick’s teammate and fellow protester Eric Reid, the reason for the initial protest had nothing to do with the flag, the National Anthem, or the troops. It was about racism. Here are the key paragraphs from that powerful article:

I approached Colin the Saturday before our next game to discuss how I could get involved with the cause but also how we could make a more powerful and positive impact on the social justice movement. We spoke at length about many of the issues that face our community, including systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system. We also discussed how we could use our platform, provided to us by being professional athletes in the N.F.L., to speak for those who are voiceless.

After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.

It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.

Articles like Mr. Reid’s and respectable news outlets like the NYTimes made a concerted effort to keep the nation’s attention on the real reason for the protests. Posts a post on social media also helped reinforce the core message of the protests… a message that is reinforced by this picture:

But not everyone in our country believes the protests are “appropriate”, and some school districts, as noted in Politico, have gone so far as to ban any kinds of protests at this weekend’s football games. In response, lawsuits are likely to follow. Here’s the synopsis from Politco’s Morning Education feed:

The principal of Parkway High School in Bossier Parish wrote in a letter that the school “requires student athletes to stand in a respectful manner” during the anthem, and that those who don’t comply could be kicked off the team. A picture of the letter was posted to Twitter by Shaun King of the Intercept and was retweeted thousands of times. Another district official told the Shreveport Times that potential punishments range from “extra running to a one-game suspension.” The school’s Facebook page was flooded with angry comments, as well.

The ACLU of Louisiana issued a statement calling the Bossier Parish school officials’ threats to punish students who protest “antithetical to our values as Americans and a threat to students’ constitutional rights.” Marjorie Esman, the executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, told Morning Education in an interview that “the Supreme Court has been very clear that schools, government officials, cannot suppress a student’s right to protest – even on a team, even during a game. To refuse to salute the flag, say the pledge, all of those thing – they are protected by the United States Constitution.”

But the constitutional right to free speech does not seem nearly as important to the so-called “strict constructionists” of the Constitution as, say, the right to bear arms. And while the school district is seemingly unlikely to prevail in any case brought against it, as long as the reason for the protests remain clear and in the forefront, the general public will be reminded that racism still exists in this country and the hatred that underpins that racism is poisoning our discourse as citizens, our democracy, and our well-being… and MAYBE those who chose a course of love over hate will let their views be known by electing officials who share that perspective.

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  1. Elyssa Gersen-Thurman
    September 30, 2017 at 1:13 am

    Well said!

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