I have consciously refrained from weighing in on the Colin Kaepernick situation, but I can’t ignore it any longer. This situation has now touched me where I live – Nebraska Cornhusker football. Three members from my favorite team (since I was knee high to a grasshopper) chose to kneel during the anthem Saturday night. One of them is among my favorite players on the team. I have to admit at first I was a bit bugged by this. I feared this was a situation that could lead to dissension on the team. And it puts the head coach in a bit of a quandary as far as preventing that dissension. After reading the young man’s rationale for his actions, I had to adjust my position. You can read Michael Rose-Ivey’s statement in its entirety here:
This is not the rant of a thug. There is a big difference between a protestor and a hooligan. Both those who want to honor law and order and officers of the law, protect the sanctity of our national anthem and patriotism and those who work for social justice to complete the process that was started by Martin Luther King and others, must understand this. Ironically I believe it was football and other sports that helped the color barrier finally be brought down. Those advocating violence must remember that those who live by the sword, perish by the sword and that equality was never obtained by killing innocent people.
The governor of Nebraska says this act was disgraceful but he respects their right to protest – but obviously not the protestors themselves. One of the regents in Nebraska stated that the three boys involved in this protest better be fired, even though the coach gave his permission. Perhaps the regent should rethink-or renounce his own position. That is not the worst of it. Michael Rose-Ivy received comments like, “you ought to be hung before the next game.” Do you not see that this type of attitude is exactly how things were during the Jim Crow days? Black men had to leave certain towns before dark or face execution. It chills my blood to think about a young man who had the courage to stand up (well, kneel in this situation) to fight for the protection of life. To be killed for such a position is the height of irony and insanity and the exact thing that our national anthem is supposed to celebrate – freedom of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. And should I note that these men were kneeling, in prayer, during the anthem. I do believe that kneeling is the most reverential position we can place ourselves. To me sitting would have been more disrespectful. Remember people, we do not worship our flag or anthem. We pay tribute to what it represents. The American flag is not just a bolt of cloth with red and white stripes and white stars on a field of blue. It embodies the concept of freedom. We all have the inalienable right to do whatever we want as long as it doesn’t break a law which was dutifully passed by a representative government seeking the best for all citizens as a whole.
Back to my first reaction of shock and a little fear. The Huskers have a good season going. I didn’t want anything to jeopardize that momentum. Distractions would not be good here. After thinking it over though, I’m a bit ashamed. This is much bigger than football. Much bigger. Nebraska players have dedicated this season to a fallen comrade, Sam Foltz, who was killed in a car accident. Husker fans, and actually fans and players all over the nation have honored Sam. Perhaps now is a good time to ask what Sam would do in this situation? I can tell you one thing – if anyone came to lynch one of his black teammates for exercising their freedom of speech, Sam would have punted them into the next county.
There are a group of young men who have opted to raise a fist in the air during the anthem, just as two black track athletes did in the 1968 Olympics. Not many remember the names of Tommie Smith and John Carlos today. Their raised fist was the sign of the Black Panthers. They were not protesting inequality. Their slogan was “Black Power” and they weren’t finicky about the methods they used to bring about that power. I admired Martin Luther King; the Black Panthers, not so much. The governor of Nebraska suggested that it would have been more respectable for the athletes to raise their fists rather than kneel. Really, Gov? I think the only one potentially guilty of disgraceful behavior holds the top political office in the state.
I grew up in the Vietnam War era. There was a protest movement back then which impacted all young people. People who criticized our presence in Viet Nam were told, “America: love it or leave it.” I was perplexed. Aren’t the people who truly love a country the ones who do their best to improve that nation and her people?
I don’t know what’s going to happen here with the Nebraska situation. Perhaps the coach will keep his team in the locker room during the anthem this week at their home game. Maybe they’ll come out and the whole team will kneel together. Maybe they’ll all hold the American flag together too. In any case, America needs to quit censoring those who see and speak out against the flaws. If Americans force people to conform to their own standards, what difference is there between America and a totalitarian government?
Intelligent people realize we still have a problem, and perhaps a growing one, with race relations. How do we solve it? Check out this YouTube sermon which nails it the best I’ve seen. This guy pastors in Charlotte so they have been impacted by the collateral damage of this maelstrom.