When Political Activism Devours the NFL

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On Sunday morning before game time against the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said to the media that his team would remain the locker room during the national anthem because he didn’t want his team involved in the politics of whether certain players would stand or not stand for the national anthem.

I respect Coach Tomlin for not wanting to play politics, and you could tell in the post-game press conference he was fed up with the game’s politicization. On the other hand, what is so controversial about leading your team and standing in front of the whole stadium in respect of the flag?

Why did everyone (except lineman Alejandro Villanueva) sandwich themselves in the tunnel/runway and hide from everyone while putting their hands over their hearts? Is it scandalous to stand in the open for the anthem now? I don’t think it’s “political” to respect the anthem and flag, something that every citizen should do.

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Image credit: Fox 4 News

Now, the politics of the day have intimidated whole teams from even demonstrating out in the open the basic respect and patriotism for the nation in which they live, play, and prosper from.

The national anthem, usually accompanied by the presenting of America’s stars and stripes, doesn’t demand that players willfully turn a blind eye to whatever they may think America’s flaws are. Rather, It’s a minute to a minute-and-a-half when fans, players, coaches, and owners stand and reflect upon the privilege that they have to live in a nation that safeguards the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Somehow, the reality that the flag and anthem represent all Americans and the union of our 50 states is somehow a topic that Americans now think is debatable.

Dozens of NFL players, following the lead of free agent Colin Kaepernick, have refused to stand for the anthem and presentation of the colors because they have projected whatever their political grievances are onto the flag. They see it as a bloody piece of cloth stained with the sins America has committed.

This is what the politics of personal destruction does to our nation’s entertainment industry. Based on a culture of victimhood and emotion rather than analysis and solutions, it politicizes our sports, our music, our comedy, our art, and our films. Now, if you aren’t pounding home an overt political message in your industry, you’re a complicit bigot.

The NFL players kneeling during the anthem are directing their activism in a fruitless display of grandeur. It’s self-loathing to kneel in defiance of the flag and anthem, which represents them, just like every other American citizen.

Besides making a scene, what have these players contributed to the subject of their protests? Have they clearly articulated their message? Have they gathered verified evidence of the charges they assert against policemen and American society? Have they offered any cogent solutions for their grievances?

Have they done anything worthwhile outside of the minute-and-a-half that they kneel to further their cause?

Does anyone really think that kneeling or as Lesean McCoy did, stretch, while the national anthem is playing is productive or brave? It’s like throwing a tantrum, then refusing to provide any sort of vision or pathway to the society they want.

These players have a right to protest, and in the same vein, the American people can criticize them for disrespecting the anthem.

The object of the anthem is not yourself; it reminds NFL players and average citizens alike that they are joined together in a union, a union not predicated upon race, religion, or politics but upon rights given to us by God, like equity before the law and freedom of speech.

There should be reverence and reflection for that kind of union, even though the United States has its blemishes.It’s a time to honor America as a whole, and not simply your own political agenda.

After many NFL games, players from opposing teams often gather to kneel and pray together. Why couldn’t the protests happen then? Why couldn’t players announce to the media that they were going to kneel together for whatever beef they may have with America?

Why did they have to make the flag and anthem about politics instead of a unifying symbol for our nation?

That’s why I disagree with those who want to take the flag and anthem our of sporting events. How selfish it would be to not even recognize the nation we benefit from! Is supporting American founding principles and symbols like the flag and anthem now too controversial.

The flag and anthem are not about one person. It’s not about President Trump or Colin Kaepernick or one man or woman. It’s about the union.

There is one NFL player who reminded us about that union on Sunday. Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva chose to emerge from the locker room from and stand for the anthem.

A graduate of West Point and an Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan, Villanueva carried a rifle for this Union and he earned a Bronze Star for valor in combat. When he went outside the wire and patrolled, he served his fellow Americans, and not only his comrades, but the rest of us who depend on men like him to sweat, strain, and bleed so that we might preserve the liberty we talk about so often.

It wasn’t too controversial for him to serve his nation, even though it’s people don’t always live up to the values etched in the Constitution. He did it anyway, because he believed the country and its principles, which the flag and anthem symbolize, were worth fighting for.

If America is worth fighting for, then maybe Villaneuva’s teammates and NFL peers should have the humility to stand for the flag and anthem, which represents their freedom to hit each other in the head for millions of dollars.

Some soldiers, men and woman of all races and worldviews, died for millions less in faraway lands so that flag remains a beacon of something more than merely the political outrage of the day.


Kevin Cochrane is a writer and college student. Like what you read? Follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC, find him on Facebook, or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to get Town Crier’s latest updates. Want to read more? Visit his blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com which offers a Christian perspective on the surrounding culture. You can contact him with comments or questions at kevincochrane316@yahoo.com.

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