Dolphins safety Michael Thomas remarked, “It just amazes me, with everything else that’s going on in this world ... That’s what you’re concerned about? You’re the leader of the free world, that's what you’re talking about?”
Some say they don’t mind the players protesting, but that they shouldn’t be doing so while they are “on the clock.” One might apply that same logic to their critics, namely the president. And they wouldn’t be wrong.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, not one to mince words on issues outside of basketball, spoke on the subject: “It’s hard to sit down and decide, that, yes, it’s like you’re at the 50-meter mark in a 100-meter dash, and you got that kind of a lead, yes, because you were born white. You have advantages that are systemically, culturally, psychologically rare. And they have been built up and cemented for hundreds of years.”
To take a knee during the national anthem is not to disregard anything those who have fought overseas for our country have done. Committing and sometimes sacrificing one’s life to protecting the well-being of others is an act of immense selflessness, and nobody in their right mind should try to undermine the valor of our soldiers.
Taking a knee does not call into question the bravery of those who fight to protect the American dream. It simply questions whether that dream carries the same meaning for everyone in our country.
In most American dreams, you weren’t born to a 14-year-old mother who sold crack cocaine to feed her kids in a house where the refrigerator had a lock on it, like Dez Bryant was.
Bryant clinched arms with several teammates during the anthem on Sunday.
In most American dreams, you don’t grow up in a group home and endure vicious beatings from the older children until you grow big enough to fight back, like Jimmy Graham did.
Graham remained in the locker room during the anthem on Sunday.
In most American dreams, you weren’t raised by a single mother while your father served a 24-year sentence for burglary, as Marshawn Lynch was.
Lynch sat during the national anthem on Sunday, as he has done in every game this season and frequently throughout his career.
Bryant, Graham and Lynch are now paid millions of dollars to play football. Their stories are not uncommon in the NFL, and yet their critics seem to dismiss the notion that many of these players grew up facing some brand of oppression simply because they are now making a fortune.
This is precisely why these protests matter. Who will shed light on systems of oppression if the oppressed cannot do so themselves?
Many players who do not experience the same injustices as their teammates knelt anyways, perhaps because they understand these problems will not be fixed until the advantaged start siding with the disadvantaged.
Perhaps they feel that for all the opportunity our flag represents, it also symbolizes our right to ask if all Americans are treated as equally as they are created. Perhaps they believe those very rights protected by our military do not always pertain to every American.
Trump claims, “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race.”
Not a single NFL franchise owner is black, but sure, that has nothing to do with race either. It’s just another one of those “coincidences” that tend to happen when race and prosperity are as intertwined as they are in today’s America.
The players kneeling for the anthem are not dishonoring our military and its mission to protect the American dream. They simply recognize that it doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone.