Steve's Blog

Taking a Knee

A private in the United States military makes about $40,000 per year. He or she can be sent to such garden spots as Iraq or Afghanistan, and risk the real possibility that they might be returning to the United States without all their limbs, or in a body bag. They risk everything for the country they serve, and yes, for the flag that represents that country.

The average NFL player makes approximately $2.5 million a year, and many make far more than that. They play 16 games a year, plus four pre-season games, and if they’re fortunate, some playoff games, and maybe even a Super Bowl. And of course they practice a lot. And a growing number of them have seen fit lately to forgo honoring our nation’s flag during the national anthem that precedes the games in which they play.

As one who both loves the nation that flag represents, the flag itself, and football, I find this current imbroglio one of the most disheartening in memory. And it’s not clear how or when it ends.

As I was flying back to Washington from Cincinnati earlier this week; I was reading a newspaper I don’t read all that often (because I disagree with the vast majority of their editorial points of view), the New York Times. The headline of their top editorial really ticked me off: “The Day the Real Patriots Took a Knee.” In other words, the Kaepernick-following sitters and kneelers are the true patriots. The players who still honor the tradition of standing with their hands over their hearts during the national anthem, are a bunch of unpatriotic bums. What a crock! (I’d cancel my subscription to the New York Times, but I don’t have one.)

This unfortunate mess has even made its way across “the pond” to Great Britain, where the Baltimore Ravens played the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday. A bunch of these wealthy American athletes refused to honor the American flag by standing, but then honored the British national anthem “God Save the Queen.”

Now I know our War for Independence was a long time ago, and these scholar athletes may not have been paying attention in grade school, or high school, or college, when the Revolutionary War was being discussed, but you’d think common sense would give them some clue of the irony of dissing the American flag, and honoring the flag of the nation from which our forefathers won their freedom. (To be fair, the ancestors of many of the players taking the knee were in all likelihood slaves, and didn’t share the same rights and privileges back then that all Americans have today.)

Maybe the Dallas Cowboys came closest to threading the needle Monday evening before the Cowboys/Cardinals game in Dallas. Prior to the national anthem, the whole team, including the Cowboys’ owner, Jerry Jones, locked arms and knelt, but then all stood for the national anthem. President Trump (who’s been following all these events closely) noted in a tweet that the team was roundly booed by fans for taking a knee, but that standing for the anthem was “big progress being made – we all love our country.”

One final point. Dallas has for many years been referred to as “America’s Team.” I would like to nominate the Cincinnati Bengals for that title. They are one of the few NFL teams where all the players have continued to honor our flag, and therefore our country. I would like to commend Coach Marvin Lewis, Owner and General Manager Mike Brown, and all the Bengals players and staff for making us proud. (Unfortunately, the Bengals lost in overtime 27-24, after being up by two touchdowns at halftime).

If I had to choose between patriotism and winning, I’d choose patriotism. (Of course, I’d rather have both.)

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