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Readers respond to column on National Anthem protests

by J.W. Miller on 09/29/17

My column Monday on the NFL protests during the national anthem was one of the most-read pieces I’ve ever posted. It also prompted several responses from readers who took the time to present their opposition, or blessing, of the events. I’ve selected three of those responses and present them here.

Les from New Orleans:

I agree with Drew Brees 100%! There is enough divisive rhetoric on tv/radio and in the paper everyday! I don't want NFL football to be another platform for more of the same! If it continues I will have to switch my Sunday routine to work on my golf swing (and believe me it needs a lot of work)as opposed to watching the NFL I have been a fan of for so many years!

Bill from Richmond:

I used to think like you that it is/was terrible that sports figures did not stand at attention with hands over hearts for the National Anthem.  I will continue to do so. However, and this is a big however, it is their right to protest in this "peaceful" way.  Plus, Trump never knows when to keep his mouth shut or his thumbs crossed. I have to readily admit that I think the election of Donald Trump was a terrible mistake.  His life and actions violate so much that an average American holds dear.  I don't understand how a veteran, a Christian, someone who believes in the sanctity of marriage, a businessman who follows the rule of law, a woman, etc. a combination of any or all of these could vote for him.  In nearly 78 years of following the American Body Politic I am profoundly confused. I read a review of a new book out called "Fantasyland" which probably explains part of it.  Trump emerged as a TV Star and America loves Stars, glamor, etc.  I feel like I am living in some kind of reality TV show. Maybe it will all work out for the good of America, but I grow increasingly pessimistic.

Mike from New Orleans:

So let's recap. Tim Tebow takes a knee for prayer and it's unacceptable. The Dallas Cowboys are not allowed to wear a decal honoring the five "murdered" Dallas Police Officers slaughtered for the crime of wearing a "Blue uniform." NFL Players told they couldn't wear 9/11 cleats to honor close to almost 3,000 victims which included well over 400 first responders, thousands working in NYC in the Twin Towers and all those passengers on Flight 93 who bravely battled back against terrorists and lost their lives in doing so. None of those Patriotic, heartfelt tributes are allowed on the football field, but, this disrespectful, divisive kneeling during the National Anthem is allowed and condoned by many teams across the country and many owners as well as the NFL and Roger Goodell. Let that sink in. Now do something. Make the stadiums empty. You believe in this. Empty stadiums = NO MONEY. 

Rod from New Orleans:

I wish it were so simple as to declare that the National Anthem is off limits to protest under the belief that any protest is somehow disrespectful to the military or unpatriotic. I respect the opinion of those who hold that view - I simply disagree that it’s all or nothing. To totally disregard what the protest is all about in the first place or to treat the underlying facts behind it as irrelevant is as insulting to me as it seems to be to those who connect the protest to disrespect of the country or military. Did you know this? Aug 14, 2016 - Colin Kaepernick sits for the national anthem, and no one noticed. Aug 20, 2016 - Colin again sits, and again, no one noticed. Aug 26, 2016 - Colin sits and this time he is met with a level of vitriol unseen against an athlete. Even the future President of the United States took shots at him while on the campaign trail. Colin went on to explain his protest had NOTHING to with the military, but he felt it hard to stand for a flag that didn't treat people of color fairly. 

Then on Aug 30, 2016 Nate Boyer, a former Army Green Beret turned NFL long snapper, penned an open letter to Colin in the Army Times. In it he expressed how Colin's sitting affected him. Then a strange thing happened. Colin was able to do what most Americans to date have not. He listened. In his letter, Mr. Boyer writes: "I’m not judging you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s your inalienable right. What you are doing takes a lot of courage, and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was like to walk around in your shoes. I’ve never had to deal with prejudice because of the color of my skin, and for me to say I can relate to what you’ve gone through is as ignorant as someone who’s never been in a combat zone telling me they understand what it’s like to go to war. Even though my initial reaction to your protest was one of anger, I’m trying to listen to what you’re saying and why you’re doing it." 

Mr. Boyer goes on to write "There are already plenty people fighting fire with fire, and it’s just not helping anyone or anything. So I’m just going to keep listening, with an open mind. I look forward to the day you're inspired to once again stand during our national anthem. I'll be standing right there next to you." Empathy and understanding was shown by Mr. Boyer and Mr. Kaepernick reciprocated. Colin invited Nate to San Diego where the two had a 90-minute discussion and Nate proposed Colin kneel instead of sit. But why kneel? 

In a military funeral, after the flag is taken off the casket of the fallen military member, it is smartly folded 13 times and then presented to the parents, spouse or child of the fallen member by a fellow service member while KNEELING. The two decided that kneeling for the flag would symbolize his reverence for those that paid the ultimate sacrifice while still allowing Colin to peacefully protest the injustices he saw. Empathy, not zealotry under the guise of patriotism, is the only way meaningful discussion can be had. Mr. Kaepernick listened to all of you that say he disrespects the military and extended an olive branch to find a peace. When will America listen to him? Thanks Mudge Rudiger. We can all learn from this backstory. The truth often lies in the middle. Seek to learn the opposing side's views is the best I hope for my friend. God Bless the USA !! 

Comments (2)

1. Dominick said on 9/29/17 - 04:31PM
Taking a knee is taking the easy way out! If these players really want to DO something about racial equality, pay a black kid's college tuition or underwrite a poor kid's lunch program for several years! It will help others and reduce the player's tax liability...while DOING some good. Taking a knee or sitting is a cop out. Do something positive.
2. Dominick said on 9/29/17 - 04:40PM
I find it interesting that the black players who are upset about racial inequality are enjoying the freedom that allows them to play professional sports. They should be thankful that society recognizes talent, whether black or white, rich or poor to play and become millionaires, with or without a formal/completed education. We should be praising a system that allows otherwise physical laborers to make so much money.

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Silky Powell was a fixture in the Saints' locker room for 38 years before he retired in 2012. Powell died last week at age 71.