"The Stack" 9-10-20

I apologize in advance for the long post that is about to come, but this is something I feel like I need to say as it has been weighing on me for quite some time.

I’ve debated whether or not to say something about this for a while. What good will it do? How many people am I going to anger? How will this affect relationships going forward? Well if I can make even one person look at things differently, I consider this a success.

As we gear up for the NFL season and football to start this week, I have seen many posts, far too many posts quite frankly, regarding the national anthem issue and if players kneel that they (people posting or commenting on Facebook) aren’t going to watch the NFL because they are disrespecting the national anthem and the flag. If you do that that is your decision, but I think it bears a little more understanding on where these athletes are coming from.

Athletes, like actors and actresses and even politicians have a large platform that they can use to help influence (sometimes for good and sometimes for bad) and raise awareness to issues and give it a larger and louder voice. Sometimes people like you and I may not be aware of just truly how bad an issue is or how big it is until a celebrity’s voice gives credence to it. And based on the following of said celebrity, others can take up the cause and get behind something that they feel can align with their beliefs.

All of this started back in August of 2016 when the media noticed San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was protesting police brutality and wrongdoings of African Americans and minorities in the country. It caused quite an uproar and understandably so. Keep in mind I do not agree with all of Kaepernick’s actions, chief among them wearing socks that depicted police officers as pigs. That’s not cool and does not help your cause. But an interesting thing happened from the time that the media first noticed Kaepernick not standing to the next game. He kneeled. And why did he kneel? What changed? Former Army Green Beret Note Boyer reached out to Kaepernick and said that if he didn’t want to stand for the national anthem, he should kneel to be more respectful to the military. The key phrase in that is “more respectful to the military.”

Keep in mind that kneeling is a sign of respect in many ways. You kneel in church to pray. You can kneel to pray. Soldiers kneel before gravestones in cemeteries. And kneeling is a sign of respect in other countries of the world like in England when you are getting knighted by the queen or other royalty. So Boyer told Kaepernick that if he wanted to keep protesting, that he should kneel. So it was someone formerly in the military that advised Kaepernick that he should kneel. Now of course not all members of the military feel this way, but there are those that do, probably more than what you think. Trump made a big deal of it, calling football players “sons of bitches” and saying they should be fired. That only fueled Trump’s admirers and fans even more and emboldened everyone on their stances.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has said it multiple times (and he is one of many athletes to say so) that the decision to kneel has never been about disrespecting the military (there’s an actual report out there where if true, it’s about someone disrespecting the military with even Fox News confirming certain aspects of the report). No athlete, at least to my knowledge, has ever once said it. They are doing this to protest police brutality/social injustice. And when I agree with a Packer, you have to know it’s a big deal. Somewhere along the line, someone made it a point to push their agenda and say that NFL players (and subsequently other athletes) were doing this to disrespect the military and that just isn’t right.

Why do African American athletes and those that join their cause feel the need to kneel? Well it’s not hard to look at all of the recent instances from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore, Maryland, from New York City to Minneapolis, from Sacramento to Kenosha of signs where there appears to be systematic racism in how African Americans were killed by police. L.A. Clippers coach Doc Rivers had an emotional plea in a postgame press conference in the days following the Kenosha, Wisconsin, incident where he said that African Americans just want their country to love them back. That is why the kneeling is occurring. African Americans don’t feel like they are treated the same in this country under the American flag that is so near and dear to everyone’s hearts.

Think about when World War II was being fought. African Americans fighting alongside their fellow American compadres to preserve freedom in the world and stop Hitler. Most soldiers came back as heroes, but were African American soldiers? Arguably not going back to home to segregation, especially in the south, the KKK, and fears of a lynching or their homes, businesses and churches being burned down. Mark Rosen, formerly of WCCO and now with KFAN brought this up in a tweet in the aftermath after George Floyd being killed.

“An historical perspective in the wake of Drew Brees comments My Dad told me after returning with Black soldiers from WW2,segregation prevented them from going into the same stores, restaurants, as he could in the South. They fought for the same flag until they were home” – 11:22 PM Jun 3, 2020

Have you ever watched the movie Mississippi Burning, a story about three civil rights workers who were murdered? What happens in that movie is horrific and while most people would never say that what the KKK did in that movie and what went on in Mississippi is acceptable, there is that same sort of contempt for African Americans among certain facets of our population to this very day.

Now I want to be very clear here. It is my belief that there are issues that need to be addressed by black leaders. Drugs, domestic violence situations, gun violence is all too prevalent in certain areas of the country and in certain areas of certain cities. Chicago is a prime example of a city filled with too much violence and too many murders. While better education and better living conditions I think can help address these problems, voices and actions from the black community can go a long way rather than blaming all problems on systematic racism. Not putting yourselves in a situation where the police have to be called needs to happen, but then again, how many Karens have we seen call the cops because someone is sitting on a park bench or waiting to be let into an apartment building to see a friend? It’s too common of an occurrence.

Take all of this as one person’s opinion on a very sensitive subject, but it seems like we ask our athletes and sports leagues to stand up for causes that are important to us, but if there is something we don’t agree with, we get all up in arms and we abandon them. How is that right? Why can’t we support or at least listen and understand where they are coming from on an issue that far too many of will never fully understand what it is like to be in their shoes? I think that is all that athletes are trying to ask. Understand where they are coming from.

We stick by our sports teams through the good times and the bad. Browns fans, Lions fans, 76ers fans and even Cubs fans have stuck with their teams through 0-16 seasons, “The Process” and over a century of futility before finally breaking through and winning a World Series. During this time, when athletes and teams have provided us so many memorable moments (and also plenty of frustrations) and have become a part of our lives, why are we so quick to abandon cheering for them just because we might not agree with one thing that they do?

Maybe it’s my passion for sports that makes me have such strong feelings about this. Maybe it’s the fact that I am independent (believe it or not) and am trying to look at and understand multiple sides to issues. It’s one of the reasons why I wasn’t completely outraged by Adrian Peterson when he beat his child with a tree branch because that is what his father did to him when he was younger. Looking back at that, I probably taken a different stance and been stronger and more condemning on Peterson’s actions. That is a regret I have. Maybe it’s my fear of not having anything to talk about with family or friends because if no one is watching sports, what do I have in common with them? What do I have to talk about? And if you abandon your team during a tough time, are you truly a fan or only a fan when it is convenient to you and when it aligns with your beliefs? You can’t expect to come back when sports is convenient for you.

We’ve almost reached the conclusion and here’s my ask, my plea, my wish. You don’t have to necessarily agree with the athletes and join them in their cause, but just understand where they are coming from. I don’t think it’s worth giving up sports because you disagree with someone. Just like most (or some) people won’t unfriend someone on Facebook or unfollow them on Twitter if they disagree with them, is it worth boycotting and abandoning sports, because you disagree with something they do? I just don’t think that’s the case. And if you keep posting or replying to posts from ESPN, Fox Sports North, etc., it shows that you still care about sports, but if you say you’re not going to watch, then don’t watch. You don’t need to post it. Just stop watching. Like it or not, sports will go on.

Again, all I ask is that you understand and just listen to the message that these athletes are trying to get across. 2020 has been rough and sports (football in general) is a helpful distraction and something that we need during these crazy times. I would hate for so many people to abandon football and sports in general only based on this issue. Stay safe. We’re almost through this hell of year. Here’s hoping 2021 is a better year. It’s got to be. It can’t be any worse than 2020.