2 Reasons the Protesting NFL Stars are Wrong

The flag and our anthem represent America's principles and ideals — not society's departure from them.

Members of the Cleveland Browns take a knee during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017.

By Christopher Corbett Published on September 25, 2017

Taking up chess will be more mentally strengthening than watching the NFL. But before I dust off the board, I need to leave behind two reasons I believe protesting the national anthem and the flag is a bad idea.

Attack on America’s Ideals

First, whether intentional or not, the protests target the fundamental principles and ideals of our nation. The national anthem is a poem set to music. In it, the flag is said to embody American ideals. That’s what national anthems and flags of nations do. They embody the ideals and core principles of that nation. They don’t embody the ugly departures from those ideals.

So to visibly disrespect the anthem and flag signals that you probably believe one of two things. Perhaps you don’t agree with those ideals. Or perhaps you think those ideals have been irrevocably perverted so that the flag and anthem are now a mockery of those ideals. And therefore you are disassociating your very allegiance to the nation itself.

These sports stars showing disrespect for the national anthem and the flag — stars that sadly include many who are Christians — are either confused or cowardly. 

But is this reasonable? These millionaire sports stars are made rich by the social environment created by American ideals. Do they actually disagree with those very ideals? 

Or perhaps it is the second reason: they believe that American ideals have been so perverted that their symbols must be rejected. But if so, how did this perversion result in their status as millionaires? How did its total loss result in the election of an African-American president? An unprecedented number of racial-minority political and corporate leaders? So many minority academicians? Integrated schools? Widespread interracial marriage? It seems farcical to make this contention.

It’s fair game to criticize the actions of one’s country. But they should honor the ideals. They should honor the symbols of those ideals. And they should honor those who spilled blood to preserve those principles.

I can personalize this. As a pro-life American, I could perhaps justify refusing to honor the symbols of a nation whose leaders have allowed the genocide of the unborn. But I don’t resort to such a protest. I believe that legal abortion is a departure from the country’s ideals. I also believe that within our system the return to those ideals is viable, not irrevocably lost. This was Lincoln’s stance regarding slavery. So despite the heartache of the partial departure of America from what it is meant to be, I will salute those ideals and principles as embodied in the flag and anthem.

Attacking God-Ordained Authority

Second, as a Christian, I understand that God ordained nations to give order and justice to a fallen humanity. Nations and their laws are a guard against anarchy — which is even worse than bad government. Thus, the Bible teaches me to honor the ruling authorities. (And that injunction was written during the reign of Nero). Of course, the nation is not to become an idol. But it is to be respected as a creation of God for the general good.

And so I will respect the symbols of that nation. I see the nation as representing God’s grace, despite the flaws. I will try to move it toward a more perfect alignment with God’s ideals for any nation. But unless the nation utterly transforms its symbols as representing evil (such as the Germans did with the Swastika, which I would not have honored), then I will publicly respect those symbols.

Help us champion truth, freedom, limited government and human dignity. Support The Stream »

The sports stars showing disrespect for the national anthem and the flag — stars that sadly include many who are Christians — are either confused or a bit cowardly. There are no other categories for them. If they are serious about their stance, perhaps they should stop merely posturing and transfer their citizenship to nations more in line with whatever ideals they believe America lacks. Because it is the symbols of American ideals these athletes are choosing to dishonor. That’s why so many fellow citizens who might otherwise listen to their arguments are instead tuning them out.

 

Christopher Corbett is a communications strategist working with an array of non-profit policy organizations. He holds a degree in political science from the University of Chicago.

Print Friendly
Comments ()
The Stream encourages comments, whether in agreement with the article or not. However, comments that violate our commenting rules or terms of use will be removed. Any commenter who repeatedly violates these rules and terms of use will be blocked from commenting. Comments on The Stream are hosted by Disqus, with logins available through Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or G+ accounts. You must log in to comment. Please flag any comments you see breaking the rules. More detail is available here.
  • JP

    outstanding article. Should be read by all.

  • Wayne Cook

    From my friends in other countries. they question the NFL, not the ideals.

  • BetterYet

    This is one that Trump has right. The NFL should be benching these fools.

  • azsxdcf1

    Very well written! Thank you! ALL Americans – YES – even those of us who disdain abortion – ought to honor the principles upon which the Nation is built -THE Nation that everybody on planet Earth wants to live in!

    • Chris Corbett

      You’re welcome! My pleasure to share my thoughts. Feel free to share it with friends.

  • NellieIrene

    It’s wrong because they are on the job when they enter a stadium to play a game. And whether they like it or not, the National Anthem is a part of the pre-game ritual. And standing is generally a requirement. They should protest on their own time.

  • samton909

    fire every one of them

  • Az1seeit

    Well made point about the ideals. I’m grateful for those teams who stayed in the locker room, actually, which was the norm….I understand them being out there for the anthem is a recent Obama era gambit.

    I also wish the media wouldn’t publish pictures of them disrespecting the country. It’s enough that they did it…why do we have to have it in our faces continually?

  • Scott Mitchell

    This could not be better said, thank you for dealing with the facts, avoiding the confusing emotions that people tend to allow in issues such as this. I believe that much of the confusion over this whole issue is the lack of understanding of what the true American ideals are. Its greatly affecting our culture because some of the most influential people in our culture are drawing support from people who may also not understand the principles of national loyalty, but just want to support their favorite sports celebrity. The culture is in dire need of a basic history lesson – it would prevent more problems down the road for our nation.

  • Concerned Christian

    Here’s the tone deafness that I see. You start with two points:

    Attack on America’s Ideals
    Attacking God-Ordained Authority

    Not once do you blame the white owners, most of which are republicans. At any point, the NFL could stop this. So I’m curios why the following doesn’t’ apply to the owners?

    “So to visibly disrespect the anthem and flag signals that you probably believe one of two things. Perhaps you don’t agree with those ideals. Or perhaps you think those ideals have been irrevocably perverted so that the flag and anthem are now a mockery of those ideals. And therefore you are disassociating your very allegiance to the nation itself.”

    Does this apply to the white owners or just the black players?

    “These millionaire sports stars are made rich by the social environment created by American ideals. Do they actually disagree with those very ideals?”

    Does this apply to the white owners or just the black players?

    “they believe that American ideals have been so perverted that their symbols must be rejected”

    Does this apply to the white owners or just the black players?

    “The sports stars showing disrespect for the national anthem and the flag — stars that sadly include many who are Christians — are either confused or a bit cowardly.”

    Does this apply to the white owners or just the black players and Christians?

    “There are no other categories for them. If they are serious about their stance, perhaps they should stop merely posturing and transfer their citizenship to nations more in line with whatever ideals they believe America lacks. Because it is the symbols of American ideals these athletes are choosing to dishonor.”

    Does this apply to the white owners or just the black players?

    This article like so many come with the basic argument that these ungrateful black players should learn their place! I’m not calling anyone a racist, I’m simply pointing out that Black Players are taking a stance that they believe in. White ownership is allowing them to express themselves in this manner. If you have a problem it should be with the ungrateful white owners and not the ungrateful black players.

    • Chris Corbett

      I think you’ve raised some outstanding questions. Thank you! In fact, the very points you raise trouble me as much as the focus of the article.

      Here’s why I think your point is valid:

      The whole controversy began when one player, Colin Kaepernick, protested during the national anthem on the basis that he blamed the nation in general for egregious oppression of African-Americans, especially in light of accusations of police killing blacks. I don’t agree with him on the substance of those incidents (e.g., I don’t think Michael Brown in Ferguson was gunned down trying to flee), though I do think racism is an issue in other contexts. However, even if Kapaernick was right about that, his form of protest would be wrong because (a) the police incidents were local, (b) the flag symbolizes the whole country, and thus is more attached to the federal government, (c) the federal government was actually leaning more toward Kapaernick’s side, for example the Dept. of Justice investigated the Ferguson shooting and put a lot of pressure on the local authorities, and (d) my article’s point that the flag is a symbol of America’s ideals, not its departure from those ideals.

      But the protest then spread to other African-American players, who either were making the same errors Kapaernick made, or didn’t fully understand his reasoning and were just protesting racism in general–again, misplacing the direction of their protests.

      It then escalated further when white players joined the protests, usually just to show solidarity with their black teammates. And the owners didn’t do anything to educate the players or enforce company discipline as employers; the NFL made the same mistake; and therefore the owners and the league allowed it all to spiral out of control.

      The controversy was a fire just waiting to explode into a massive blaze, and along came President Trump to supply a dry wind. Soon, the whole forest of American culture was blazing. A total, and preventable, disaster.

      So yes, you’re correct. I look at the owners, the NFL execs, the white players, and think, “Does anybody know what’s going on here? Is anybody thinking clearly about this?” The owners seem like they want to sweep it under the rug or cover things over with euphemisms like “solidarity.” But solidarity about what? Do they really all agree with Kapaernick’s original thesis that America is, at its core, an incorrigibly evil, racist country whose flag cannot even be honored? Probably not, but it doesn’t matter because unthinking authorities let it get out of control.

      I wonder what would have happened if the NFL owners had adopted the stance of a NASCAR owner I read out yesterday (I can’t remember who it was). He said if anyone on his team wanted to protest during the anthem, he would privately sit down for an extended conversation to explain why this was an inappropriate way to address the perceived wrong. Maybe that wouldn’t have done any good in the NFL, but sadly it seems there is no evidence that any owner tried to inject empathy and reason in talking with their players about why they weren’t going to allow this form of protest. So confusion reigns, and with it, division, strife, and mistrust. It reads just like the book of James.

      So yes, in my view the owners bear as much blame, and perhaps more, than the players. Quite frustrating. Thanks again for your comment.

    • Chris Corbett

      I think you’ve raised some outstanding questions. Thank you! In fact, the very points you raise trouble me as much as the focus of my article.

      Here’s why I think your point is valid:

      The whole controversy began when one player, Colin Kaepernick, protested during the national anthem on the basis that he blamed the nation in general for egregious oppression of African-Americans, especially in light of accusations of police killing blacks. I don’t agree with him on the substance of those incidents (e.g., I don’t think Michael Brown in Ferguson was gunned down trying to flee), though I do think racism is an issue in other contexts. However, even if Kapaernick was right about that, his form of protest would be wrong because (a) the police incidents were local, (b) the flag symbolizes the whole country, and thus is more attached to the federal government, (c) the federal government was actually leaning more toward Kapaernick’s side, for example the Dept. of Justice investigated the Ferguson shooting and put a lot of pressure on the local authorities, and (d) my article’s point that the flag is a symbol of America’s ideals, not its departure from those ideals.

      But the protest then spread to other African-American players, who either were making the same errors Kapaernick made, or didn’t fully understand his reasoning and were just protesting racism in general–again, misplacing the direction of their protests.

      It then escalated further when white players joined the protests, usually just to show solidarity with their black teammates. And the owners didn’t do anything to educate the players or enforce company discipline as employers; the NFL made the same mistake; and therefore the owners and the league allowed it all to spiral out of control.

      The controversy was a fire just waiting to explode into a massive blaze, and along came President Trump to supply a dry wind. Soon, the whole forest of American culture was blazing. A total, and preventable, disaster.

      So yes, you’re correct. I look at the owners, the NFL execs, the white players, and think, “Does anybody know what’s going on here? Is anybody thinking clearly about this?” The owners seem like they want to sweep it under the rug or cover things over with euphemisms like “solidarity.” But solidarity about what? Do they really all agree with Kapaernick’s original thesis that America is, at its core, an incorrigibly evil, racist country whose flag cannot even be honored? Probably not, but it doesn’t matter because unthinking authorities let it get out of control.

      I wonder what would have happened if the NFL owners had adopted the stance of a NASCAR owner I read out yesterday (I can’t remember who it was). He said if anyone on his team wanted to protest during the anthem, he would privately sit down for an extended conversation to explain why this was an inappropriate way to address the perceived wrong. Maybe that wouldn’t have done any good in the NFL, but sadly it seems there is no evidence that any owner tried to inject empathy and reason in talking with their players about why they weren’t going to allow this form of protest. So confusion reigns, and with it, division, strife, and mistrust. It reads just like the book of James.

      So yes, in my view the owners bear as much blame, and perhaps more, than the players. Quite frustrating. Thanks again for your comment.

Inspiration
A Generous Season
James Randall Robison
More from The Stream
Connect with Us