There has been great controversy about so many National Football League players taking a knee rather than standing during the pre-game playing of our national anthem.
The protests began in August 2016 with the decision of Colin Kaepernick to use this method to bring attention to police brutality and the systemic inequality faced by people of color in the United States. Other players soon joined him, and protests spread throughout the league.
The protesters had their attackers and their supporters.
Many citizens were grossly offended by the disrespect shown to this symbol of our nation. Hundreds of thousands have fought and died defending this nation and its freedoms, including those who fought under Old Glory to set black men free. Most would agree that America still has many problems, but much progress is being made toward the elimination of racism. Respect the country and its flag!
Protest supporters insist that the player’s actions are not about the flag or anthem itself and have nothing to do with U.S. troops. Instead, as one supporter phrased it, “they are about systemic racism in our country’s justice and economic systems, and the devastating – sometimes fatal – consequences it has for people of color, particularly young, black men.”
Colin Kaepernick stated it more bluntly: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color . . . To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
According to protest supporters, when Kaepernick began his protest in 2016, black people made up only 13% of the population but also:
- They made up nearly 63% of unarmed people killed by police officers.
- Black people were nearly three times more likely to be arrested for illicit drugs.
- People of color not only make up a disproportionate amount of the prison population, but also are more likely to serve longer sentences for the same crimes as their white counterparts.
These statistics are probably correct, but other statistics can also be cited:
- African-Americans accounted for more than 50% of the murders committed in this nation between 1980 and 2008. The great majority of these murders were blacks killing blacks.
- In 2013 72% of black children were born to unwed mothers, A fatherless, disadvantaged youth is often led to anti-social and criminal activities. Criminal activities result in conflict with police, and that has become a boiling point in black-white relations.
- All over the nation, the police killed 987 civilians in 2015. Of this number whites were 493 (50%) and blacks 258 (26%). Most of those killed were armed and a threat to the life of the officer. Compare the number 258 to the 6,000 black murder victims in an average year.
- Recent statistics prove that a policeman is in much greater danger of being killed by a black, armed or not, than an unarmed black is in danger of being killed by a policeman.
Any death by violence is a tragedy. And no one should deny that racial injustice has been perpetuated in the United States for most of its existence, and, to some extent, it still exists. Many blacks continue to live in a state of economic and social disadvantage, and the above cited statistics reflect the results of that disadvantage.
The most depressing statistic relates to the break-up of black families as shown by the out-of-wedlock birth rate. Prominent blacks in entertainment and sports should join their clerical brothers in fostering strong role models for African-American youth. The family is the bedrock of any community, and without strong families the community is prey to chaos, crime, and citizen vs. police confrontations.
The actions of police most often come into question, and it was in reaction to perceived police brutality that the NFL protests began. Police work is a hazardous and difficult business, and most policemen do it bravely, honestly and competently. They have my deep respect and support. We must admit, however, that not all policemen are saints. Sometimes there is a bad apple in the peck. Give a sadist a badge and a gun and he is still a sadist. But it does not happen very often. The killing of an unarmed black by a policeman is a national news event. Considering the size of our nation, the frequency of criminal activity, and the number of policemen, it is somewhat surprising that there are not more unfortunate incidents than there are.
I can understand the impatience of men like Kaepernick. They want change and justice now. They want to stamp out all vestiges of racism in America, and they want to do it yesterday. That is a noble aim, but is it reasonable and realistic? I think not.
Our progress over the past half-century has been amazing. Men of good will are gradually tearing down the old walls of prejudice and building a better tomorrow. We should all work together to promote equality and end racial strife. In this context, I believe that the actions of NFL protesters are extremely counterproductive. In what ways do these protests address the roots of inequity? How are they promoting healthy black families? Instead, these players have chosen to poke a collective finger into the eye of Uncle Sam. They attack the symbols of our nationhood, and many of our citizens are deeply offended.
My other concern is this. How can we satisfy the protesters? What specific actions can we take that would satisfy their calls for racial justice? We will never be perfectly just. We will never be without faults as a nation.
As far as I can see, these protests may go on forever.