On taking knees

There’s currently a debate going on about some NFL team members kneeling during the national anthem to protest widely reported instances of police violence toward minority groups. President Trump has called the players in question “sons of bitches” while team owners, even those who donated lots of money to Trump’s campaign, have mainly supported the players.

Interestingly, only about a half-dozen players were joining in the protest at the time President Trump started to complain, and subsequently the number has greatly increased.

Yesterday’s New York Times published an op-ed by Eric Reid headlined “Why Colin Kaepernick and I Decided to Take a Knee.” Please read the whole thing. He begins

In early 2016, I began paying attention to reports about the incredible number of unarmed black people being killed by the police. The posts on social media deeply disturbed me, but one in particular brought me to tears: the killing of Alton Sterling in my hometown Baton Rouge, La. This could have happened to any of my family members who still live in the area. I felt furious, hurt and hopeless. I wanted to do something, but didn’t know what or how to do it. All I knew for sure is that I wanted it to be as respectful as possible.

When his teammate Colin Kaepernick stopped standing for the national anthem during the preseason Reid decided to join him, and they started discussing what to do.

After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.

It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.

Again, the whole piece is worth reading. But I have to say that I thought that what Reid says above should be completely obvious. Who in the history of the world has ever knelt to show disrespect?

Clearly not everyone thinks that a gesture of protest on a football field or during the national anthem is appropriate. I can see arguments on both sides. A lot of people disagree with the views of Kaepernick and Reid and not just their way of expressing it. (For the record, I happen to think they have an entirely valid point.)

But to suggest that players kneeling during the national anthem is showing disrespect to the flag or the country strikes me as absolutely ridiculous. In some cases it’s dishonest, and effort to stir people up for political reasons by misrepresenting something. That’s far, far worse than kneeling respectfully during the national anthem.

Personally this aging Navy veteran plans to continue to stand and salute the flag during the national anthem. (For one thing, if I did kneel, I might need help getting up.) But I respect Kaepernick and Reid and their colleagues, while Trump’s tirades against them lower my respect for him yet another notch.

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