The fact that NFL players are taking a knee during the national anthem is a completely American expression of rights and their duty to defend the constitution of the United States. It is every American’s responsibility to speak out when we believe the values our founders defined for us are being compromised. For president Trump to blaspheme professional athletes for expressing their concern is un-American ― not the other way around. Our flag and anthem represent our strongly-held values, the flag itself and our anthem are symbols of these values, which only then imbues them with significance.
The majority of professional athletes in the most popular American sports are African American. They are at the core of what brings the “sports economy” into vibrancy. There is nothing in their contracts prohibiting them from peacefully expressing their concerns and as we have seen, the team owners and management support the first amendment rights of their athletes. This started primarily as an expression of alarm that African American’s were being singled out, mistreated and even murdered by law enforcement authorities ― and that this unfortunate circumstance remains pervasive despite video camera vigilance and many decades of civil rights struggles. Of course, we realize that most law enforcement authorities are fair and just; but this occurs with such frequency and so selectively that it’s quite obvious the problem remains prevalent.
Freedom of speech and of the press are at the heart of our constitution. For the president of the United States to rally around compromising these fundamental values and laws says a great deal about who our president is. It says that he wants to roll back the clock to a time before the constitution and bill of rights were etched into our national fabric, before the existence of our very nation. I doubt most Americans would be in favor of erasing these fundamental values.
Intimidating professional athletes, the press, or anyone else for that matter into silence means that our elected, reluctant leader of the free world wants to change the definition of what it means to be American. The logical end result is that the attraction created by our open and diverse nation would diminish, tourists would take their funds elsewhere and brilliant minds would think twice about becoming productive members of our economy – think about Google, Intel, Tesla and even Albert Einstein himself, fleeing an extremely racist Nazi Germany to become a citizen of the United States.
When it comes to entertainment and sports, think about the number of athletes and performing artists of African American descent who have contributed to our culture in such fundamental ways that their absence would completely change how we see America. Would we be the same America without Rock & Roll, Jazz, Hip-Hop, Soul, R&B, Oprah Winfrey, the Williams sisters, Arthur Ashe, Muhammed Ali, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Hank Aaron, Joe Louis ― and yes, Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Colin Kaepernick. Many more athletes and artists are speaking out about this ― I especially enjoyed LeBron James’s tweet on the subject. The time is right to speak out in defense of our nation, for the benefit of all those now living and for our children who will inherit this nation which has been so bravely fought for.
For President Trump to say that the NFL issue is not about race is completely unsurprising. Of course it is about race, he just doesn’t want to admit that. Just as he didn’t want to admit that his company discriminated against African American tenants, that he used the terms “both sides” after Charlottesville, and why he wants to build a wall at our southern border. It also explains the reason for the contempt he expresses for President Obama at any opportunity.
For Trump’s former advisor and now self-described street-fighting wing-man, Steven Bannon, to say that Dreamers (those brought into this country as children of adults without proper migration documents) should self-deport is completely harmonic with what the president continues to espouse. Do we really believe that Mexican immigrants ― legal and illegal ― don’t work extremely hard to earn their livelihood, benefit their employers and boost our economy? Ask any construction contractor, farmer, restaurant, hotel or factory owner, and if they’re being honest they would choose to defend the worker who helps grow their business. If roughly 35 percent of Americans believe that it’s okay to discriminate in these ways, well it might ― unless illegal ― be their right and privilege to do so. However, that would mean that 65 percent of us believe doing so is wrong, and we need to make our voices heard.
Let’s be clear about one thing: immigrants and native-born people who are other than Anglo American also care deeply about what this country stands for, we are here for that very reason. If our countries of heritage would have offered the opportunities that America offers, we would never have migrated... and America might have had more competition in its economy and among athletes from foreign lands.
It’s high time that those of us who believe in our constitution and what this country stands for, actually stand up for our democracy and defend its values. This may include taking a respectful knee at a public event to express our concerns for core values that are being violated – violated even by the head of our nation. A diverse nation will help ensure our country stays fresh and energetic, confronting a wide range of challenges to the economy and to our national security.