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Column: Not protesting is what is really un-American

Jason Green, The University of Texas at El Paso

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Almost one year ago today, I wrote a column about Colin Kaepernick and the stand – or knee – that he was taking in response to his perceived racial inequality and police brutality toward African-Americans in the United States.

This was during the Obama administration. A year later, we are 10 months into the Donald Trump administration and things are so much better. Racial inequality has been solved. White supremacy has virtually disappeared, and the protests in the NFL are all but non-existent thanks to the famed negotiating prowess of our president. Just kidding.

At a recent campaign rally—yes, campaign rally—Trump brought up NFL players who kneel during the anthem and said that he would love to see the team owners say, “Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. He’s fired.”

This is very similar to the comments that Trump made when White Supremacists wreaked havoc in Charlottesville, Va., when he said that all of the Nazis, KKK members and “alt-right” should also be fired from their jobs for their views on immigrants and minorities. Oh wait, no… he didn’t.

Instead, he chose to criticize the NFL players, who are peacefully protesting to bring attention to racial inequality in the United States. Trump chose to point out the disrespect to the national anthem and the flag. Never once mentioning any reason behind it.

Everyone gets super patriotic at sporting events for some reason. It’s just inherently patriotic, I guess — the soldiers, the flyovers. It’s all just so natural and… American.

Well, not so fast, my friend.

In 2015, it was reported that the NFL had been paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $5.4 million for “paid patriotism” by the U.S. government, according to a report by the office of Senator John McCain.

The Indianapolis Colts accepted tax-payer money from the National Guard for the use of a suite, autographed items and appearances from cheerleaders.

Many military members appear on field to hold the giant flags that have become ubiquitous with the NFL and it’s all-natural brand of patriotism that the president loves so much.

While we have a second, let’s talk about those giant flags.

Perhaps the president – and the NFL – is familiar with the US Flag Code: Chapter 10.176C, which reads “The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.” This would mean that any giant flag carried flat across a football field would be in violation.

But, I digress.

Beginning on that Sunday morning, the leader of the free world tweeted a total of 12 times about the NFL and the anthem/flag controversy that he created.

NFL players responded to what they felt was an attack by Trump during his speech in Alabama by taking a knee during the anthem, joining arms in solidarity or in some cases not coming out for the anthem at all. Although some saw this as the ultimate sign of disrespect, in my opinion, this was probably more of an attempt to stay out of the controversy as much as possible.

Worsening the situation for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who stayed in the locker room during the anthem, was the appearance in the tunnel by lineman Alejandro Villanueva. Villanueva is a graduate of West Point and is a former Army officer who served in Afghanistan.

As a retired enlisted soldier, I can fully understand why Villanueva did what he did. In my 13 years and numerous deployments in the Army, I learned a lot about myself and a lot about race.

In 2016, the officer ranks were 72 percent white, 11 percent black and 7 percent Hispanic. The enlisted ranks were 53 percent white, 24 percent black and 16 percent Hispanic. Compare this to the 13.3 percent black minority and 17.8 percent Hispanic minority in America.

Why would a president, who refuses to chastise White Supremacists, target the NFL? I don’t know. It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the league’s make-up is 68 percent black could it? There were also the tweets about the NBA, where the Golden State Warriors were “uninvited” to the White House. The league is 74.4 percent black and 47.5 percent of fans are black or Hispanic.

There was the one about the NHL champion Pittsburgh Penguins being invited to the White House instead. The NHL is 93 percent white and 92 percent of its fans are white.

There was also the one about NASCAR and it’s “supporters,” who won’t stand for the flag being disrespected. NASCAR’s fans are 94 percent white and the Monster Energy Series – the top series in the sport – currently lists no black drivers.

All of that being said, this is entirely about the American flag and the national anthem, according to Trump. It has nothing to do with race, despite the fact that the original protest was entirely about race. It has to do with disrespecting our troops somehow.

Well, as one of our troops, I will tell you that I do not feel disrespected when someone uses one of their American rights. I did not fight for a piece of fabric with red, white and blue printing on it. I did not fight for a piece of music. I damn sure did not fight so that black people can be racially profiled and murdered in the streets due to the color of their skin.

Until we are all treated equally by the police and those in office, there is a reason to protest at sporting events and anywhere else. It is not disrespectful. It is our right as Americans.

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Showcasing great student journalism from members of the SNO Network
Column: Not protesting is what is really un-American