Culture and Conflict| A Few Thoughts On #TakeAKnee


Last year I boycotted the NFL largely because of Kaepernick, this year I may boycott the NFL because of Jerry Jones.

I hadn’t planned on commenting about the #TakeAKnee issue until further on into my series on Culture and Conflict, but since the issue keeps getting more and more inflamed and now that at least one team owner is threatening to bench players who don’t stand for the anthem, echoing some of President Trump’s demands, I felt like I would offer a few thoughts as an interlude in my continuing series.

Last year, Colin Kaepernick began an unusual pre-game practice…he began kneeling instead of standing for the National Anthem.  When cameras crews snapped a photo of him wearing “police pig” socks, it quickly became apparent what his protest was about and he made several statements confirming he was making a statement about police violence.  A lot of conservatives immediately began calling for a boycott, and I even saw a few videos of 49ers fans burning Kaepernick jerseys.  Kaepernick’s history on racial dialogue (he has been fined in the past for using racial slurs during regulation play) and his alleged true motivations (some suggest he was embarrassed at being benched, and looking for a way to impress his Black Lives Matter girlfriend) aside, I pretty much met his actions with one big shrug.  I obviously felt like he was choosing the wrong place and time to start up a political dialogue and that he would close more minds and turn more people away from what he felt like he had to say by appearing to dishonor the flag, but I affirmed his right to do it.

But then, Kaepernick’s #TakeAKnee situation became coupled with another issue which placed it, for me, in a completely different light when I was made aware of a glaring double standard.  In the wake of the Dallas Shootings, which ended the lives of five police officers, the Dallas Cowboys wished to make a tribute to the fallen and began wearing “Arm In Arm” decals on their football helmets at a camp where they indeed walked arm in arm with city officials and families of the fallen onto the field.  Shortly after, the Dallas Cowboys were informed by the NFL they could not wear the decals on their helmets in regulation play.

Think upon what this double standard meant.  The NFL, ESPN, and many other media mediums tripped over themselves defending Kaepernick’s right to apparently dishonor a flag that, in the minds of most Americans, represents the combined sacrifice of millions of Americans in defense of our freedoms and liberties, an act that, whatever the initial or continuing reason, was breeding resentment and increased division.  And yet, the NFL did not hesitate to censor a whole team’s attempt to declare solidarity and unity in the wake of senseless violence and murder which the very city the team represented was in the process of mourning.

If freedom of speech matters at all, it matters for everyone and in all cases such a principle should apply.  To accommodate one point of view, while censoring another, is perhaps a greater spit in the face of the principle then to censor across the board.

And so, I did not watch any NFL football games that season.

Now, just when the whole issue was beginning to go away, President Trump makes the demand that any “son of b****” who doesn’t stand should face some sort of punishment, which of course poured gasoline on the fire and we went from a few players kneeling to whole teams not even coming out of the locker room.

And believe it or not, I still wasn’t planning on boycotting the NFL this year…until Jerry Jones entered the picture.

Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys who I boycotted the NFL to support, came out recently and threatened to bench players who didn’t stand for the playing of the National Anthem.  I disagree with him wholeheartedly and for the exact same reason I agreed with him last year.  I cannot countenance double standards.  Using the power of his franchise ownership to compel speech, Jerry Jones is damaging his own position that his players should have been allowed to wear the “Arm in Arm” decals and places the NFL squarely in the right, by his own justifications, for dictating what forms of speech his team could or couldn’t make.

This ran a little longer then intended, so I’ll end on this note:

I am disturbed when I see NFL players, many of them from underprivileged backgrounds, refuse to stand and honor the flag of a nation which has brought them a quality of life, privilege, and wealth well beyond their upbringings, and my own imagining, and it does little to open my mind towards their grievances, even if they were something I could generally agree with.  This being said, I would be even more concerned if I saw those same players standing and demonstrating false reverence because they have been threatened with a loss of their careers and their livelihoods.  I have always believed that bad speech deserves only good speech in return, and actions that dissent against the ideals of the nation deserve only actions that reaffirm the ideals of the nation.  I will not engage in bullying people into giving reverence and deference to what they don’t believe in, because I believe in the strengths of my arguments.  I believe if I pray hard enough and work hard enough, I can work towards a day where my fellow Americans will once more be proud and honored to stand of their own free will.  Such a glorious day will not be arrived upon through the current tactics of would-be taskmasters like Donald Trump and Jerry Jones.

-The Millennial Federalist

(I plan on dissecting this issue far more thoroughly as I continue my series on Culture and Conflict)

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