The ‘Knee Thing’
We confess that the issue of political speech is complex, especially when it concerns patriotism and race. A Cleveland Tennessee business owner is pulling his commercials from NFL broadcasts for the rest of the season because of the ‘knee thing’. According to Allen Jones, CEO of Check Into Cash and suit maker Hardwicke Clothes “his companies will not condone unpatriotic behavior.” http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/tennessee-business-owner-pulls-nfl-ads-over-unpatriotic-protests/ar-AAsAjxP?li=BBnb7Kz.
However, there is more than a shade of hypocrisy and political correctness here. NFL players are not the only Americans who fail to rise during the playing of the anthem. In homes and bars across the nation, most attend to their nachos, wings, sliders and beer rather than stand, place their hands over their hearts and mouth the Star-Spangled Banner. And few salute the flag every time they see one.
More importantly, while the player’s symbolic speech may be unsettling to some, they are neither disrespectful nor unpatriotic. They are instead engaged in constitutionally protected political speech in a reverent and reasonable manner.
Unlike the Charlottesville protesters, the players are not boisterous or disruptive. They carry no weapons and do not disturb the peace with lit torches or hateful rhetoric. There is no rioting, violence, property damage, death or personal injury.
None have desecrated the flag, mocked the anthem, or advocated for the overthrow the government. And they never refer to anyone as bitches or the sons thereof. They merely kneeled in silent reflection.
Ordinarily, kneeling would be considered an act of respect, loyalty and fidelity, representing contrition, submission and obedience as the faithful kneel in prayer. Now it is perceived as an insult.
Equally significant, the conduct neither targets nor castigates the national anthem. Rather, the players are calling attention to racial and social injustice of law enforcement.
We concede that not every negative encounter between the police and minorities can be laid at the feet of the law enforcement. Nonetheless, the players concerns are legitimate. Too many unarmed men have died at the hands of the police and the criminal justice system is racially biased.
The problem here is not the act of kneeling but the content of the speech. And the real message of those who object to ‘taking a knee’ is that the players are well paid yet ungrateful athletes who are not permitted political opinions. They should instead shut the hell up and confine themselves to amusing us by beating the hell out of each another, similar the gladiators of ancient Rome. We are pleased the players decided otherwise.
Calling for a more perfect union; that we live and honor the values for which the anthem, flag and the nation stands is neither disrespectful nor unpatriotic. It is not an affront to the country and is not disloyal. It is instead what we all should do.