There’s a wild man in North Korea with a big bomb. There are crazy people in the Middle East who would just as soon blow you up as look at you. Millions of people are struggling to recover from recent hurricanes and earthquakes. Our health care system is completely dysfunctional. We are facing global environmental problems and a drug misuse problem that is almost an epidemic.
So, naturally, what we are most concerned about is whether a few football players stand or kneel during the National Anthem.
I’m having a little trouble with our priorities here.
It all started out last year when some NFL players started kneeling during the National Anthem to protest against racism. President Trump really poured gasoline on the fire last week when he said all the protesters should be fired and called them names and had other adult things to say about people he disagreed with. That led to all kinds of protests by more players, apparently to protest about their right to protest – I think.
It seems to me the message is getting lost in the fight over the method.
I don’t have a big problem with athletes staging their little protests. They were looking for a reaction, and they got one.
I also don’t have a big problem with people tearing up their tickets and turning off their TVs because what the athletes did offends them. Free speech, and its consequences, work both ways.
It seems to me that now that everyone is looking, the protesters need to find a better way to get their message across. They were hoping to shed light on lingering racism in this country, something no one who looks at society with an open mind can deny. But now the big fight has become the National Anthem.
I don’t think the football players are saying they hate America — I mean, they’re making millions of dollars playing a game no one else around the world watches. That’s a pretty sweet deal. I think what they are saying is there are many other people without their resources who continue to struggle, at least in part due to racism. So the protests are to stick up for those people. But I’m not entirely sure that’s what they’re saying because the message is kind of muddled.
I’d like to say Americans are an understanding people but we’ve always been prone to extremes, and that comes out in what we say about each other. You might not want to admit it, but we generally fly off the handle at the slightest provocation, just like a certain president. We start throwing out insults that fit any occasion and then wonder why we can’t all just get along.
Unfortunately, I think Donald Trump represents America pretty well. You might scoff at that, but ask someone who doesn’t live here. You might be surprised by the answer.
But back to the football players. I’m not sure what to think. I believe in their right to protest, but I think they’re taking the wrong path. It’s a tough line to walk – you want to attract attention to the problem but you want to get people on your side to work toward solutions. They’ve got the attention but so far they’ve just been preaching to the choir without any long term plan I can see that will actually cause any change. They’re going to need a new concept or else they’re going to end up like those Occupy Wall Street guys. Remember them? People were interested for a while, but then everyone just kind of forgot about them and they disappeared.
One more thought — I’m not sure that most people care what football players and celebrities think as much as football players and celebrities think they do. As I was trying to sort out my thoughts on this, I do what I always do when I have a perplexing philosophical problem. I asked for an opinion from my wife.
“Well,” she said, “I haven’t been paying a lot of attention. At the end of the day, they’re just football players.”
Hmmm, good point. It’s not like they’re basketball players. Now, there’s a real sport.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.