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You may not agree with the stance NFL players have taken, but you should back their right to speak their minds peacefully and constructively. As an avid football fan, educator, and Christian, I believe that NFL players should be celebrated for their stance. Jordin Sparks may have said it best, silently, when she sang the National Anthem last night. She had written Proverbs 31: 8-9 on her hand. These verses read, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” NFL players are using their platform to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, which should be admired and celebrated.
While I think that Jordin Sparks did an excellent job of peacefully stating her view, I also think that many of the arguments people have used against player demonstrations are hypocritical and racist. One example is the Dallas Cowboy’s expression of protest on MNF. As a football fan, I have never liked the Cowboys or Jerry Jones, but I was very impressed with their demonstration and they gained my respect as an American and human being. One argument that many people have used against player’s demonstrations is that they were disrespectful to the flag and the veterans who fought for freedom. Therefore, the Cowboys chose to come out in solidarity and unity before the anthem and then stand in unity for the anthem. Yet, were they celebrated for their choice? NO. They were booed. They listened to the detractors and changed their protest to avoid disrespecting the flag, but received the same result.
I have read many other posts that discussed listening rather than shouting to be heard concerning the NFL protests. We all need to listen more to what people are standing up for: equality for those who do not have enough of a loud enough voice through representation in the government. The NFL players have listened to everyone’s criticisms and they deserve to be heard. How have they listened? Let us look at other arguments used in the past. First, when Black Lives Matter starting protesting, people asked why they couldn’t be more peaceful and use a better place to air their grievances. People voiced their concerns that BLM was too violent. NFL players answered through the simple, quiet, non-violent act of kneeling. Another argument heard was that athletes are well-compensated and should not complain about being oppressed because of their wealth and status. People have challenged them to put their money where their mouth is, but fail to see the fantastic work that athletes have done in this area. For example, Anquan Boldin started a charity to help the underprivileged and committed $1 million of his own money in 2014. His salary that year? $955,000. I will let you fill in the blanks on that one. Michael Bennett’s pledge to donate all endorsement money to inner city programs highlight the passion that these players have to help those who are not as fortunate as they were when growing up. Every argument that has been made by those appalled by the NFL player’s stance has been answered, yet they are still being booed and ostracized. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The NFL players and other activists have listened to other’s criticism and have changed their tactics, but they are met with the same racist rhetoric no matter what they do.
The Cowboy’s demonstration shows that it is not an issue of the flag and respect for veterans, but one of preserving the status quo and ensuring that the minority remains silent. It is not about preserving the flag and what it stands for, but about silencing those whose opinion differs from the majority. But, people should be careful about stifling the free speech rights of others lest it comes back to bite them. This is a slippery slope. Some are calling for players to be fired over their stance, but would you want to be fired for expressing your beliefs? Unfortunately, many who are balking at NFL players’ demonstrations are Christians and Republicans who supposedly believe in less government interference and more personal freedom. These people get upset when they are challenged on their beliefs in the workplace, yet they are now calling for the firing of people who are doing the same thing. I am a Christian, but independent politically, and find this concerning. People cannot stifle other’s freedom of expression without also accepting the stifling of their own views and speech. I have been in many offices and businesses where people had pro-life stickers, posters, etc. This is a protest of current government policies and laws and no different than what NFL players are doing. If you fight against the stance of NFL players and call for their firing, then you cannot be surprised when your employer fires you for your bumper sticker or cubicle poster. When you fight for the infringement of other’s free speech rights, then you do not deserve to have freedom of speech.
NFL players have every right to protest. Many grew up in the inner city and have witness to segregation, poor schools and infrastructure, profiling, etc. They are merely trying to help those who cannot help themselves. You also have a right to boycott the NFL, but realize that you must also boycott all their sponsors who pad their pockets. This means you will also have to boycott Anheuser-Busch InBev (your weekend beer), Campbells, FedEx, Ford, Frito-Lay, Gatorade, Intel, Microsoft, McDonald’s Nike, and numerous other multinational companies. Are you willing to do this? NFL players have put their endorsements, contracts, and financial futures on the line to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. As an educator, I have seen and studied the effects of disparity in opportunities to a better life. There is a major issue in this country with opportunity, privilege, and access for those who do not fit a certain demographic. NFL players are fighting for equity and equality for all, which is something that all Americans and Christians should be doing. We should all be fighting for the plight of those less fortunate than we are.
Except for Native Americans, we are all immigrants here and have benefited from someone who believed in the American Dream. NFL players are merely trying to ensure that that dream is accessible to more people from diverse backgrounds. About 50 years ago, George Wallace ardently railed against integration and history views him as a racist whose views created violent oppression of others. How will your stance on the NFL protests and racial equality be viewed 50 years from now?