Are the NFL Protests About the Flag Or Not?

I strongly encourage NFL players to find other ways to draw attention to racial oppression and injustice.

Members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Indianapolis. Vice President Mike Pence left the 49ers-Colts game after about a dozen San Francisco players took a knee during the national anthem Sunday.

By Michael Brown Published on October 11, 2017

Colin Kaepernick said his protest was all about the flag. The NFL Players Union, which supports the players’ right to kneel, stated that the protests are not about the flag. For Vice President Pence, who walked out on Sunday’s Indianapolis-San Francisco game after several San Francisco players knelt, this is all about the flag. What are we to make of this?

It’s Different in Person

This past Sunday I attended an NFL game with one of my grandsons after I was given two tickets by a Detroit Lions player. Being there in person underscored how much these protests do feel like an attack on the flag, even if it’s not the players’ intent.

You have the honor guard standing in their military regalia. You have the flag (or flags) hanging proudly. You have the call through the loudspeakers to stand in honor of our national anthem. And you have the stirring words of the anthem itself, which we’re probably listening to more attentively than ever before. And in this particular game, during halftime, a local Pearl Harbor and World War II survivor walked onto the field to applause.

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

Whatever each athlete’s intent might be, it really does feel like an affront on the flag if they kneel. That’s why I previously argued that, from a strategic point of view alone, the players are hurting their own cause by protesting the anthem.

They might not be anti-American. They might even come from military families. But, had any players knelt during the anthem at the game I attended, it would have felt wrong within the stadium. Even more so than when watching at home. Why alienate the very people you want to enlist in your cause?

When Kaepernick Started This, It Was About the Flag

Let’s not forget the words of Colin Kaepernick, who started the kneeling movement:

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

Whether or not you agree with his assessment of America and its treatment of people of color, and whether you deem him a hero or a fool, it is undeniable that he was protesting the American flag. To repeat, with emphasis, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

In contrast, after Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones announced that players who wouldn’t stand for the anthem wouldn’t play, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith released a statement saying “no player is disrespecting our country or our flag.”

But didn’t Kaepernick say the opposite of this? And aren’t the players who are kneeling showing solidarity with him?

I believe Mr. Smith is sincere. But is he speaking for the protesting players or is Kaepernick speaking for the protesting players? And if the kneeling players are not meaning to disrespect the flag, could they issue a joint statement repudiating Kaepernick’s words?

Systemic Oppression?

In response to Vice President Pence leaving the game, Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers said, “This is what systemic oppression looks like. A man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple things out and leaves the game, with an attempt to thwart our efforts.”

This is “systemic oppression”?

From a strategic point of view alone, the players are hurting their own cause by protesting the anthem.

Pence explained via Twitter that, “I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.” And as the former governor of Indiana, he would have witnessed the return of the corpses of slain soldiers, their coffins draped in flags. You can understand why he doesn’t take disrespect of our flag lightly.

How can Eric Reid refer to Pence’s actions as an example of “systemic oppression”? What is systemic about this? How is it oppression? And if Reid wants the right to protest, doesn’t Pence have the right to protest? Statements like these only hurt Reid’s cause, making some people wonder what world he’s living in.

Other Ways to Protest

You may say in reply, “That’s the whole point. The world Eric Reid and other players grew up in is very different than the world in which Mike Pence grew up.”

That may be true. But his perspective is certainly skewed. His method of drawing attention to the perceived issues does more harm than good.

So, once again, I strongly encourage the players to listen to NFL team owners, and now to Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is calling for the players to stand. Find other ways to draw attention to racial oppression and injustice, wherever they may be found in America.

Don’t you think the whole nation would take notice if hundreds of NFL players (and coaches and owners), both black and white, marched through the streets of one of our inner cities and then delivered several short speeches outlining their concerns? This is just one way that they could get their message out without appearing to disrespect our flag.

In the end, only by working together can we make America truly great.

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.
  • Nicholas

    Every time a player puts up a black-power fist or takes a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner, they’re disrespecting American people. We’re tired of being called racist, bigoted, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, white-privilege having, backward-thinking losers. We’re not! There are literally thousands and thousands of police departments in the United States. Every single study that tries to prove “systemic racism” falls flat.

  • TheSaint4JC

    Their actions can be understood by the prophetic wisdom of God’s Word,

    “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” [2 Timothy 3:2-5 ESV]

    None-the-less, Jesus’ words of wisdom instructs us to…

    “… love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” [Luke 6:35-36 ESV]

    • Beth Van

      Jesus also told the Hard Truths and said, “Go and sin no more.” Why doesn’t anyone bring those teachings up anymore?

  • Patmos

    The protests are likely an attempt to vilify an entire nation for the actions of a few, and it’s either a calculated move or one based mostly on emotion. My guess is it’s the latter.

    It’s unfortunate that the anthem was chosen as a venue to protest, because it sends a mixed message and only complicates things. Hopefully emotion will eventually die down, and thought enter into the picture, but it’s been over a year now and I have seen very little thought coming from the protesters.

    Thing is these players have more power than they realize: They have money, status as members of their community, a certain level of organization already in place with the NFLPA, and so to see them press forward in such a stubborn and fruitless manner is cringe worthy.

    • Wayne Cook

      Hard to take a rich guy in a footballer’s uniform seriously, since their income belies their words.

  • Concerned Christian

    Please someone tell me what the black community can do?

    1. We protested shootings and you said nothing.
    2. Blacks & WHITES from different income levels protested the shootings and you convinced yourself that it was just those poor blacks, empowered by leftist or black racist, that were complaining.
    3.. BLM started organizing marches and you called them a terrorist group.
    4. Kaepernick , after talking with military people, felt that taking a knee was a more respectful protest than simply sitting down.. However, you told him that you can’t protest the flag period.
    6. You celebrate the fact that Kaepernick has been blacklisted from the NFL.

    If you believe we should sit down and shut up that’s fine. If you “really” believe we should clean-up our communities and then the injustices will stop, that’s fine.

    But please tell me what is the answer since everything we’ve tried has either been ignored or vilified?

    • m-nj

      Maybe because the basis of the protests … the supposed shooting or other mistreatment of “innocent” criminals … has proven to be false. Case in point, Ferguson. The narrative was a lie, but it birthed the whole BLM movement, which has now become excessively violent itself (either because that’s what BLM wants, or because they have allowed themselves to be hijacked by Antifa).

      Are there bad cops? Yes. Are there bad situations where cops honestly make bad calls? Yes.

      But this endless protesting about systematic oppression and a completely corrupt legal system is driving away those who do agree with you.

      • m-nj

        p.s. And I have no problem with the players taking a knee. As long as they have no problem with me criticizing them for it (and other refusing to support them). Freedom of expression works both ways.

        • Concerned Christian

          Agreed! 🙂

      • Concerned Christian

        Good point about Ferguson. The only person that could refute the cop’s testimony was dead.

        However, let’s take a step back and look at Jason Stockley. He claims that the black motorist had a gun although the only DNA found on the gun was Stockley’s. He was recorded saying:

        “we’re killing this mf, don’t you know” minutes before killing him. The judge stated that none of that mattered. This was prior to Ferguson. This is the backdrop of the anger that occurred in Ferguson.

        This issue affects every black man in america regardless of social economic class. This is why the NFL protest have had legs.

        So tell me what must i do in order for you to do something? Since kneeling drives you away, what are you prepared to do if we stop kneeling?

        • Wayne Cook

          There was security camera video…it corroborated the cop’s testimony.

          Kneeling? If you mean the players…they’ve lost America already.

          • Concerned Christian

            no the video doesn’t. Also, the video of Alton B. Sterling confirms that the cops held him down and shot him in the back of the head. Again, with no charges. There’s more than one incident that we’re talking about.

            The whole point of the kneel is to bring attention.

            1. When I complained you didn’t do and say anything.
            2. In response, I knelt
            3. You responded by saying I’ve already lost America.

            So my question is what exactly did we lose?

    • Wayne Cook

      Item
      2…the only blacks I know of protesting shootings at all were Al baby, and he has ignored the worst city for murders in the US, Chicago. Hardly consistent. Janelle already blamed the white community for everything but her income, so the argument seems a bit on the flaky side.

      3…first off the BLM movement proclaimed their antipathy of cops specifically, thereby defining themselves as a terrorist group. Their leaders still shout about killing ‘pigs’. Here in Dallas, five policemen died for their right to march…shook up the local protest, but a few weeks later BLM was again calling for the deaths of cops. A less than 2% of deaths in the black community, offset by the now over 90% murder rate at the hands of other blacks.

      4. Kaepernick wore socks announcing his stand on police…pretty much the same thing as BLM…

      In conclusion…I’ve seen over 5000 tweets in the last two months by youngsters, dienfranchised whites and bitter blacks alike that somehow the NFL is enslaving players, though I fail to be able to logically connect a multimillion $ contract with slavery, since slavery by definition was unpaid labor.

      All I’ve seen to date is that individuals are bitter about their station in life and point fingers far too readily at someone else for their lack of success.

      I was born into a poor family, spit on as a white kid in South America, had a Peruvian cop shove an MP40 in my chest, and survived 2 communist governments to become a successful television engineer. I’ve seen both sides and I’m not buying.

      • Concerned Christian

        The murder rate of white on white is 84%. People tend to kill who they know.

        So if i understand you correctly: When:

        1. Blacks deal with cities like Chicago.
        2. Jemele stops blaming the white community.
        3. Blacks denouce BLM & Kaepernick
        4. We stop complaining about the finances of NFL players
        5. We stop being bitter about our station in life and pointing fingers.

        Then all of these issues will go away. What’s really sad is that whites and some blacks love to define all black protest as sorry losers. But as i stated:

        1. We protested the shootings and you said nothing.
        2. Blacks & WHITES from DIFFERENT income levels protested the shootings and you convinced yourself that it was just those poor blacks, empowered by leftist or black racist, that were complaining.

        I served in the military, was a CPA, now I’m a married consultant with a wife and three kids. My son is in college on a Chemistry scholarship. The majority of blacks that I know either went to college and certainly their kids have gone to college.

        THE MAJORITY OF BLACKS DO NOT LIVE IN POVERTY OR IN AN INNER CITY COMMUNITY!
        HOWEVER, ANY PERSON WITH A TEENAGE BLACK SON, IS CONCERNED WITH ANY INTERACTION THEY HAVE WITH THE POLICE. DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT, JUST ASK YOUR BLACK FRIENDS!

        You can continue ignoring the problem, finding excuses that legitimize your beliefs. As a race and as a country we will do what we’ve always done, deal with the consequences.

        • Wayne Cook

          I am personally proud of you for your accomplishments. I never made any contention that the majority of blacks were poor…the caps are all yours.

          My neighborhood is a third black, a third hispanic and a third white. My neighbor is a black man who grew up in the 60’s, working his butt off and in Alabama…he saw the stuff eye to eye. His own words, “These d*** kids don’t know how good they got it!!” He disagrees with you and he pulled himself up by hard work and ignoring what you complain about. And he is my best friend.

          So for you, it’s a question of bitterness, not solutions.
          You have no clue what I’ve been through nor why. Continue in your bitterness. Just not worth dialoguing with a bitter person. Have a nice day.

          • Concerned Christian

            What makes these conversations so difficult is that the reality is that black people like me and your friend (the majority) have done everything that America has required to be good citizens. Yet, when we try to voice our opinion, as citizens, the conversation is shut down with us being labeled a loser, a bitter person, or something that we should ignore.

            None of that is true. I’m fifty, if i hadn’t ignored every ignorant thing that blacks and whites have said and tried to do to me, I probably would be a loser or bitter. However, I know that I’m “More than a conqueror”. I have a good life!

            I’m simply trying to point out that this country is heading down a path that neither side wants to go down. There is common ground that we better find!

  • Ryan Harding

    Frank Turek tweeted a good analogy on this. These NFL protests are like burning the Koran to protest the mistreatment of women in Islamic countries. Even Muslims who are sympathetic to the plight of these women would not look at a pile of burning Korans and think “Oh yeah, those poor, mistreated women.” They would say, “Hey! That guy is burning our sacred book!” The message would be completely lost. So it goes with these NFL protests.

    • Concerned Christian

      wow, now that is a comparison. Although the analogy doesn’t work since the supreme court (including Scalia) has already ruled that flag burning is a first amendment right.

      What makes America special is that we don’t or at least the goal is to not have symbols that become greater than individuals. The national anthem became the National Anthem in 1931 not 1812. The biggest difference between the OT and NT is the empowerment of the individual. We no longer need a priest to commune with God.

      If we can justify our reaction based on the reaction of any group when their sacred symbols are destroyed, then we really don’t know just how special the protection of our individuals rights are.

      • Wayne Cook

        Well said.

  • Wayne Cook

    Players have said they were protesting the anthem, the flag and anything else which piqued their fancy. I’m not sure they even know…but a recurring them of protesting the flag keeps rising on Twitter and Gab.

    • Wayne Cook

      And since i’ve been on the inside of the NFL for 17 years as a video engineer for every network in this country, I’ve seen and heard the conversations and insults the players hand each other, women, the clubs and America. They worship one thing..that ball, and the money it brings them.

      • Tim Pan

        Sounds like the blacks I have talked to in jail.

  • KC

    It is all about attention – ignore the NFL and pay attention to the real issues in your own community – do something about it – then the NFL becomes meaningless!

  • Beth Van

    Society is so different from the days of MLK, Jr. Then, it was about gaining equality in America. Even though divided by race, there were beliefs and values held in common by both blacks and whites, and a strong belief in God. Today, those who have benefited the most from the civil rights era are not like that, because they have been indoctrinated to believe that they are victims. My impression is that, if they could, they would subjugate all white people and put them into slavery for payback, no matter when their ancestors came to America and whether or not they owned slaves. I put this turn about on people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Obama, and all the others who, in order to have an income and influence they wanted had to push this agenda.

  • Wayne Cook

    From the lips of Andy Rooney

    “I don’t think being a minority makes you a victim of anything except numbers. The only things I can think of that are truly discriminatory are things like the United Negro College Fund, Jet Magazine, Black Entertainment Television, and Miss Black America.Try to have things like the United Caucasian College Fund, Cloud Magazine, White Entertainment Television, or Miss White America; and see what happens……Jesse Jackson will be knocking down your door.

    Guns do not make you a killer. I think killing makes you a killer. You can kill someone with a baseball bat or a car, but no one is trying to ban you from driving to the ball game.

    I believe they are called the Boy Scouts for a reason, which is why there are no girls allowed. Girls belong in the Girl Scouts! ARE YOU LISTENING MARTHA BURKE?

    I think that if you feel homosexuality is wrong, it is not a phobia, it is an opinion.
    I have the right ‘NOT’ to be tolerant of others because they are different, weird, or tick me off.

    When 70% of the people who get arrested are black, in cities where 70% of the population is black, that is not racial profiling; it is the Law of Probability.

    I believe that if you are selling me a milkshake, a pack of cigarettes, a newspaper or a hotel room, you must do it in English! As a matter of fact, if you want to be an American citizen, you should have to speak English!

    My father and grandfather didn’t die in vain so you can leave the countries you were born in to come over and disrespect ours.

    I think the police should have every right to shoot you if you threaten them after they tell you to stop. If you can’t understand the word ‘freeze’ or ‘stop’ in English, see the above lines.

    I don’t think just because you were not born in this country, you are qualified for any special loan programs, government sponsored bank loans or tax breaks, etc., so you can open a hotel, coffee shop, trinket store, or any other business.We did not go to the aid of certain foreign countries and risk our lives in wars to defend their freedoms, so that decades later they could come over here and tell us our constitution is a living document; and open to their interpretations.

    I don’t hate the rich; I don’t pity the poor. I know pro wrestling is fake, but so are movies and television. That doesn’t stop you from watching them.I think Bill Gates has every right to keep every penny he made and continue to make more. If it ticks yo u off, go and invent the next operating system that’s better, and put your name on the building.

    It doesn’t take a whole village to raise a child right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the kid; and smack their little behinds when necessary, and say ‘NO!’

    I think tattoos and piercing are fine if you want them, but please don’t pretend they are a political statement. And, please, stay home until that new lip ring heals. I don’t want to look at your ugly infected mouth as you serve me French fries!

    I am sick of ‘Political Correctness.’ I know a lot of black people, and not a single one of them was born in Africa; so how can they be ‘African-Americans’? Besides, Africa is a continent. I don’t go around saying I am a European-American because my great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was from Europe. I am proud to be from America and nowhere else, and if you don’t like my point of view, tough…”..

    I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG, OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AND TO THE REPUBLIC, FOR WHICH IT STANDS, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL!

    • Concerned Christian

      Feel better? Seems like you got a lot off your chest. 🙂

    • Linda

      So fake. Not Andy Rooney at all. He said he wanted to sue whoever circulated this
      Iist and falsely attributed it to him. It doesn’t take much discernment to figure out he never would have said those things. This is how gullible “the alt-right” is to believe stuff like this.

      • Concerned Christian

        Wayne is just saying what’s in his heart. It really doesn’t matter to him who said it! 🙂

        • Linda

          He is entitled to hold those opinions himself, but it’s the fake attribution that’s so wrong. Andy Rooney had much to say against those things being accredited to him, here’s one thing he said: “About a year ago, I became aware of a more serious theft of my name and it is so hurtful to my reputation that it calls for legal action against the thief. Hundreds of people have written asking if I really wrote the 20 detestable remarks made under my name that have had such wide circulation on the Internet.

          Some of the remarks, which I will not repeat here, are viciously racist and the spirit of the whole thing is nasty, mean and totally inconsistent with my philosophy of life. It is apparent that the list of comments has been read by hundreds of thousands of Americans, many of whom must believe that it accurately represents opinions of mine that I don’t dare express in my column or on television. It is seriously damaging to my reputation.”

          • Concerned Christian

            i was trying to be sarcastic with Wayne. But I agree with you wholeheartedly. To be honest, I’m amazed, based on the comments, that this is a christian website.

    • Concerned Christian
  • tasha63

    I heard it expressed this way. The NFL players kneeling during the anthem / show of the flag is no more about the flag than Rosa Parks sitting down in a seat reserved for white was about the bus and transportation.

Inspiration
The Play’s the Thing
Al Perrotta
More from The Stream
Connect with Us