The way in which they protested distracts from their argument.
The Bengals lost yet another game on Sunday, but it wasn’t the usual disappointment that accompanies Cincinnati sports fandom that grabbed the headlines. While dozens of NFL players across the nation knelt during the national anthem, the Cincinnati Bengals remained standing, but with arms interlocked. Wide receiver AJ Green explained in an interview, “We’ve got to show the world that no matter what your background, or your skin color, that we can come as one and stand as one. That’s what we did today.”
Colin Kaepernick famously started the trend of kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner last year as a protest against alleged police killings of unarmed black men. This sparked a nationwide controversy and the cultural battle lines were quickly drawn. One side claims kneeling during the anthem as a legitimate protest against bias in America’s police and the other side sees the act of kneeling as disrespectful to the flag and those who died fought and died for it. The debate raged for a few months, attracting comments from ESPN talking heads, politicians, and Rush Limbaugh. Eventually, the story (and Kaepernick) faded into irrelevance.
Then out of nowhere, Donald Trump happened. Like the bolt of lightning that brought the Frankenstein monster back to life, Donald Trump resurrected the old, irrelevant, dead and decaying Kaepernick-kneeling story.
President Trump attended a campaign rally for Senator Luther Strange (unfortunately, he has no superpowers as his name would suggest) in Alabama on Friday. In the middle of his speech praising Senator Strange, a random thought popped into the President’s head, which to no surprise he said out loud: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bi*** off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired!’”
The crowd went wild. The NFL knelt. The media was outraged. And Trump smiled as the liberals played right into his hands.
“Rather than a debate on racial bias ensuing, Americans are arguing over whether or not the flag is worth standing for.”
Those kneeling during the anthem say they are protesting police bias, not the country nor the flag. They are dead wrong; their actions are nonsensical. The national anthem represents the United States of America. The Star Spangled Banner represents a nation that affords people the right to protest in the first place. Our flag, which we salute during the anthem, represents the sacrifices of generations of heroes who prioritized their fellow countrymen’s rights above their own. When you kneel, it is that you are rejecting.
If an overpaid, privileged, “oppressed” NFL player wants to protest police racism, then there are endless possibilities in which one can do this: march onto the football field saying “hands up, don’t shoot,” hold picket signs outside of a police station, or do something which is actually related to policing. Protesting the police’s racial bias by kneeling during the national anthem is like protesting Islamic terror by burning boxes of paper clips: they have nothing to do with each other!
Ultimately, the kneeling-crowd is doing far more damage to their cause than good. Those who are kneeling chose a stupid method to protest something that is completely unrelated to the action they are taking. Rather than a debate on racial bias ensuing, Americans are arguing over whether or not the flag is worth standing for.
As the non-debate rages on, the Cincinnati Bengals delivered the nation the perfect message: “We’ve got to show the world that no matter what your background, or your skin color, that we can come as one and stand as one. That’s what we did today.” So enough with the kneeling already. Protest all you want, but stand for the anthem and salute the flag of your nation which allows you that right to protest in the first place.
Follow this author on Twitter: @KyleKirker