Opinion: Better to pray than protest the National Anthem

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Protesting the National Anthem by athletes tends to do as much harm in dividing our nation than it does to bring awareness to the cause the athletes are trying to bring attention to.

In 2016 Colin Kaepernick brought attention to the racial injustices of this country. At first he sat during the anthem but he didn’t immediately say why. People took his disrespect of the anthem and the U.S. military as a slap in the face of those who sacrifice their lives for this country. Amid the backlash he acquiesced, to a degree and knelt instead of sitting. The foundation for his apathy was already in place.

When asked Kaepernick would later say “I won’t stand ‘to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people”. His silent protest was met with solidarity from some, contempt from others, while still more simply ignored him. Even when throngs of other athletes knelt in silence the message was lost in the apparent disrespect for the nation they all call home.

As the season progressed some took part while others stopped. Players like Kenny Stills of the Miami Dolphins took his message a step further and met with local police department heads in an attempt to better grow the relationships between our black brothers and sisters and our brothers and sisters in blue. In other words, some took to delivering the message, not simply stamping it.

This year the Cleveland Browns took it a step further and this seems more right on so many levels. During the National Anthem of their second pre-season game, a group of Browns players joined hands, knelt together in a circle. They called it a prayer. And that message was delivered far better than a few men here and there simply kneeling out of protest.

As a man who grew up surrounded by the military and a son and sibling of a father and brothers and sister who served this great country I can only say that I do not agree with taking a knee in protest. But I can get behind a group of players praying. Praying for our country while the National Anthem plays. Praying for all men, women, and children of all race is what is right. It does not divide it joins us all as one.

The message that was taken by the Browns was not one of anger or resentment. It was not taken as a protest against our nations problems but instead a plea, a prayer for our nation’s future. A prayer to find peace among each other. Together. A message that is sent that racial bigotry and racism in general whether radical or otherwise will kill this nation at its very core. And I’m not opposed to see more of that.

On September 11th, 2001 our nation came together like no one had seen since Pearl Harbor. Black, white, brown, Muslim, Catholic, Jewish. A nation joined not by race or religion but by humanity. By a common cause for concern and genuine caring. We looked beyond those that wanted to hurt us, looked beyond those who called us names, and we joined together to form the “United” States.

And from those ashes we learned nothing. Memories fade and towers are rebuilt. Monuments are erected and as time passes we only remember those that were lost and fail to find the common ground we all shared for a short month or two.

Here again in 2017 we watch as the “alt-left” and the “alt-right” fight each other over a President that many do not support and even more hate. That hate is what breeds more hate. In between are so many more Americans caught in the cross-fire. If you are white and supported the President you are a racist they say. If you are far left you are blind to the way the world works. Yet we take no time to ask and try to understand each other.

The Dolphins avoided a major controversy when they signed Jay Cutler because his previous relationship with Adam Gase made sense. The Dolphins were not putting Kaepernick on a black list, they were going with the one quarterback who knows their system.

Kaepernick is not employed because he is black, or because he took a knee, or spoke out about Fidel Castro. It’s not because he is a bad quarterback or a bad human being. It’s not because he wants starting quarterback money or because he won’t take a back-up role. It’s all of those. It’s because he has made himself a controversy and teams don’t want the aggravation.

Where Kaepernick brought negative attention to a just message, others turned that into a positive message and explained why without raising a message of division. Kenny Stills is black. He took a knee. He took his message to the people, to the police, and he ‘earned’ his extension.

A few days ago Michael Thomas and former Miami Dolphins safety Isa Abdul-Quddus were talking on Twitter. Abdul-Quddus said this:

My reply was simple.

And that is a fact as well. In our nation and around the world there is hatred but for every one person who wants to deliver a message of hate, there is likely 1,000 who want to deliver a message of love. For every racist there are 1,000 who are not. The problem is we, all of us, allow the one or the 100 the stage to act out their hate. Just like on 911. We threw our hate to an entire religion over the acts of a few hundred whose message is always hate. And when they stand like they did in Charlottesville, instead of ignoring them, we cat called them. We allowed them to see it bothers us. With that kind of publicity we are asking them, begging them to do it again. And that changes nothing.

Whether by design or other, NFL players and sports players should do what they can to get their messages to abolish hate into the open. Scream it if they have to. Maybe it will move some. Maybe not. Seeing a prayer instead brings hope instead. It unifies instead of dividing. It asks for the salvation of us all regardless of creed and religion or color of skin.

Perhaps that was the message that Colin Kaepernick tried to convey. Perhaps it was not. If in the end a bunch of men and women take that misconstrued message to another level, a clearer level, then maybe just maybe we start to see real change.

In order for us to move forward we need to look inward we need to accept those that don’t think like we do because it’s impossible that we all think alike. We must remember that the freedom of speech comes with the freedom of an expression we don’t like. And at times, like in Charlottesville, that message in freedom of speech is hate. We can’t move forward until we can accept our mistakes from our past and understand that there will always be those who don’t share the same visions and compassion for our fellow human beings.

Somewhere, Colin Kaepernick lost that message or he lost the ability to convey it. There are those who pick up that torch. So while I will stand for every anthem along with my former military father, three brothers, sister, and every other friend I know who has served, I know that they don’t just fight for our country, they fight for the rights and freedom of this country. But I will also stand with those who kneel and pray for this country because that is the right message and something we all should be welcoming.

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