Last night on Blue Collar Buzz we heard the national report from Worker Independent News correspondent, Doug Cunningham. Doug is a man for whom I have an immeasurable amount of respect. He is a man of principle, a top notch journalist, and someone I am proud to call my friend. On more occasions than I care to count, we have agreed so whole heartedly on so many issues it was as though we were thinking with the same mind. On our last broadcast Doug and I disagreed. He supports the concept of NFL players voicing their protests of social injustice by kneeling during the singing of the national anthem. I do not.
First of all, I firmly believe there is a time and a place for everything. I wouldn’t complain to the boss about job conditions on the day of his daughter’s wedding, especially if I had a hand delivered invitation to the wedding. It just isn’t done. It would be in poor taste, regardless of whether or not it were legal. There are times in this life when it is important to maintain a certain sense of decorum. I believe the time we spend singing our national anthem is one of those times.
In addition to the timing, there is also the inescapability of the act by the audience. Because you do indeed have the right to raise your voice in protest, does not necessarily mean you have the right to subject me to listening (in this case watching) when you do so. If I laid out two or three hundred dollars to watch a football game, I’d be more than annoyed if I had to first sit through your personal expression of political views before the kick-off. To me, that is tantamount to going out to an exclusive restaurant, which is something any NFL player might do with a salary that ranges anywhere from $365,000 a year for a rookie to over $20,000,000 a year for a star quarterback, and having your waitress tell you that nobody at your table can have a menu until she explains to you that we need pay parity between the genders for a better America. I’d be inclined to agree, but sometimes our delivery of the message is as important as the content.
Then there is the faint whiff of cowardice and hypocrisy emanating from NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell. When Tennessee Titans linebacker Avery Williamson wanted to wear a pair of cleats that honored victims of 9/11, a gesture I doubt many of us would find objectionable, he was forbidden to do so by Goodell, and threatened with hefty fines. When Williamson was urged to go ahead and wear the cleats anyway, and promised by some of his supporters that they would pick up the tab for any fines incurred, Williamson declined. Instead, he made a statement that underscored just what a class act he is. He told the newspapers, “I don’t want to draw negative attention, so I’m just going to focus on playing the game.”
Finally, I don’t think the gesture is particularly effective. It does more to divide than unite, unlike the standing together and linking arms which I personally find not only acceptable, but moving in its imagery. So, I will continue to respect my friend, Doug and enjoy that friendship. There is never a need to demonize people with whom we disagree. I will continue to support the notion that all Americans, not just the highly privileged, have the opportunity to exercise their right to speak freely.
As for me, I will continue to stand when I hear the national anthem. I will make sure I remember to remove my hat, and I will place my hand over my heart. I invite you all to join me.