On this, the 202nd Birthday of our National Anthem, lets demand the respect our country deserves.
"Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, For the land of the free, and the home of the brave." Today marks 202 years since Francis Scott Key penned those words for what would eventually become our National Anthem. The National Anthem has been in the news quite a bit lately, as it has become the platform for football players to express their dislike of America.
Today, I am launching a petition that calls for the NFL to require players to stand for the National Anthem and show respect for the flag. The NBA does. No player has the right to damage a league's brand or distract from is corporate purpose. Players have a First Amendment right to participate in whatever social causes they wish and to use their celebrity and the platform it gives them as long as they do not bring disrepute on their employer.
The NFL unfortunately fails the test of patriotism. Even on 9/11, they allowed players for the Miami Dolphins to desecrate the memories of those who died in that horrific attack. Yet when the Dallas Cowboys attempted to wear stickers on their helmets to show support for the fallen police officers of their city, the NFL stopped them. If the NFL can tell its players not to display social messages on their uniforms, they can tell them not to convey messages by their behavior. To suggest that the two are not analogous is to make a distinction without a difference.
It is lost on no one that Kaepernick's demonstration has created racial division within the league and among fans. Most black Americans defend Kaepernick, and most white Americans, while supporting his right to protest, oppose his attack on our sacred symbols. The question for the league and Roger Goodell is whether they want to play football or play politics. Do they want to be a unifying influence or a symbol of racial and social division?
On the field, players represent their teams and the league, not just themselves. When a player publicly refuses to honor the flag and our National Anthem, it reflects on his team and the NFL. The Commissioner cannot hide behind the U.S. Constitution. The National Football League is a private organization which can set policy for the conduct of its employees during games. Goodell has stated that the NFL is patriotic. Those words ring hollow when he allows players to disdain the flag, a stunt which is now spreading not only in the NFL, but in college and high school.
Football is an influential institution in American culture at every age level. Professional players enjoy fame, wealth, and privileges most Americans will never experience. We celebrate them, but they should not be allowed to exploit the field for their personal political agendas. They should not be allowed to use the game as an opportunity to insult the millions of Americans who support the game and believe deeply that we are a nation of freedom and opportunity. It is one thing to raise a social issue. It is quite another to condemn the entire nation.
Here are the facts: Kaepernick is a black man worth $100 million, hardly a victim of oppression himself. Leaving him aside, the data makes clear that there is no epidemic of police brutality or conspiracy to hunt own black men and reward police officers with paid leave. It is a despicable thing to say because it is not true. About 5/1,000ths of one percent of all black suspects police attempt to arrest are killed. While some of those killed are technically unarmed, most fight with police or try to take the officer's gun, as happened with the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson. Police are 18 times more likely to be killed by a black suspect than a black suspect is to be killed by a cop. Forty percent of murdered cops are killed by black men. Black men are 6% of the population and commit 52% of the murders. Black and Hispanic cops are more likely to shoot a black suspect than is a white cop, probably in part because of the racial implications and career consequences. The real epidemic that is killing black men is fathers abandoning their children, as Kaepernick's father did to him. It was a white couple who adopted, nurtured and cared for him. He has been incredibly blessed in the America he so disdains.
In spite of these indisputable facts, Kaepernick said, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color... There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Does the NFL support such toxic nonsense? Do we not have enough racial division in America? Are football games to become forums for demagoguery? Kaepernick and players like him have enough money to buy their own platform and spew whatever outrageous rhetoric they can conjure. The NFL should not be their enabler.
It is time for the NFL to say to its players, "The causes you adopt, the ideologies you embrace, and the public policies you support on your own time are entirely up to you. However, at our games you will show respect for our flag, our National Anthem, and the United States of America."
E.W Jackson is President of STAND Foundation, Inc. [www.standamerica.us], nationally syndicated radio talk show host for Urban Family Communications, Marine Corps Veteran, 2013 Republican Nominee for Lt. Governor of Virginia, Bishop of THE CALLED Churches and a retired Attorney.