I’ve been debating all day. In the wake of the article I wrote on Sunday about the “Take a Knee” controversy, I’ve been kept quite busy responding to a lot of people. I’ve gotten a lot of support and, as expected, I have felt a lot of push back. All of that is ok with me, but it’s gotten me to thinking and asking some questions that I want to put out here in this forum. I have some questions for those on both sides of this debate. Let me start with a question for those who have been pushing back against the protesters.
First, let me say that I understand that the National Anthem and the American flag are sacred things to many people. I know this is especially true of veterans of the armed services and their families. I get that and I respect it. I have been delicately debating a few fine veterans online all day. One thing I desperately attempted to make clear to them was that I appreciated their service to our country and I understood why it offends them to see anyone not standing respectfully at attention during the Anthem. They, more than anyone else, have earned the right to be offended by the take a knee protests. However, what I tried–in vain, I’m afraid–to make them see is that the take a knee protest has absolutely no intention of disrespecting veterans. That is a fact that, to a man, the protesters have tried to make clear–but it seems to fall on mostly deaf ears. So, to veterans who are upset–even though I’m afraid they are missing the point–I say that I will respectfully let you have your feelings. As I said, you’ve earned them.
But there is another sort who are hopping mad over the perceived disrespect to the flag shown by the protests for whom I have much less patience and tolerance. They are not veterans but claim to be offended the same as if they were. I’ve seen them post memes showing how the NASCAR race teams all line up in unison for the pre-race Anthem ceremonies and they proudly tout how you’ll never find one of these guys taking a knee and disrespecting our flag. That’s probably true, but do you know what you will see almost everywhere you look at one of those races? I’ll tell you what you’ll see–because I’ve been to a lot of them–you’ll see hundreds of Confederate flags being proudly displayed in every imaginable way. Now, please tell me how that crowd is respecting the flag more than some football players solemnly kneeling and bowing their heads. Some of the people I’ve seen lambasting the take a knee protesters most vehemently are literally the same people I saw getting bent out of shape over the suggestion that we should remove monuments that glorify the leaders of the Confederacy. How can those two notions coexist within the same person? Look no further than the White House to find a perfect example of the kind of person I am talking about. The same man who is calling for those “sons of bitches” taking a knee to be fired was, just last month, pointing out that there were some “fine people” carrying torches and protesting to keep monuments to the biggest threat to the flag our nation ever faced. Explain that to me, please.
I also have a question for the take a knee protesters. Is it time to reconsider your game plan? The take a knee strategy has been effective. Everyone is talking about it. But it’s been done now and done a lot. May I suggest that a new strategy might be even more effective? Let me explain.
The taking of a knee during the Anthem has drawbacks. Let’s face it, as effective as it has been at bringing attention to the cause, it’s also rallied a lot of people against you–some of whom might not otherwise have been. It has allowed them to hijack your message and paint you–unfairly as it may be–as unpatriotic and anti-American. That plays well in many parts of the country and the biggest cheerleader of their bunch occupies the White House.
Also, as I’ve just laid out, some very good American veterans are sincerely offended by it and there is no talking them out of feeling that way.
So what if you changed it up and took the flag out of it? What if you did some different kinds of things to draw attention to the cause without involving the National Anthem or the flag? I saw that the Dallas Cowboys, including their very conservative owner, Jerry Jones, knelt together as an organization at mid-field just before the Anthem was played this week (even this was unpopular among some, so it still made people uncomfortable). That’s one option. You could also organize and come up with some sort of unified sign of solidarity that could be done throughout the game. For instance, instead of a touchdown celebration, what if the entire team and coaching staff knelt for a moment? That could happen several times each game. I could also see that trickle down through college and high school football. I’m not suggesting you water down the protest to appease the haters. I am suggesting that you take away their option to cloak their bias under the flag. Take that away from them and steal back the narrative. Continue to make them uncomfortable without the benefit of hiding behind Old Glory.
If you’d do this, their protests would either go away or have their true nature revealed.