Players should abide by NFL anthem policy

NFL owners approved a new policy last week to address last year’s divisive protests in which many players thought it was logical to use our national anthem to bring attention to issues in America today. Taking the lead from former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick, some players have been kneeling during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

Under the new NFL rule, players must stand if they are on the field. If they prefer not to stand, they can do that by remaining in the locker room.

As could have been predicted, the ruling set off a firestorm again, this time triggering protests outside NFL headquarters in New York with more planned in other cities. Civil rights activists protested outside NFL headquarters Friday, calling on team owners to overturn the new policy and urging boycotts of the league and its sponsors.

Protestors called the decision “immoral and unconstitutional.”

Perhaps it’s just the manager in me, but I don’t see anything immoral or unconstitutional about it. The NFL is a business, and as such, this business’ managers may demand that anytime their employees (i.e., the players) are on company time, they must stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas wrote this last week: “Players are perfectly free to protest anywhere, anytime they wish, just not at the start of the games for which the owners pay them large amounts of money they are unlikely to make elsewhere.”

(It’s true. Just ask Colin Kaepernick, who has been unemployed for more than a year and now is suing the NFL to try to get his job back.)

Thomas continued: “If you think free speech rights are valid wherever and whenever one wants to speak, try protesting something on company time where you work and see how long you keep your job.”

So, why is disrespecting the flag and the nation the method these players have chosen to send their message? Undoubtedly, it’s called attention to very serious issues that exist in our society, but by doing it in this way, isn’t it also triggering more divisiveness and racial divide among Americans?

I had a wonderful conversation this week with longtime reader Richard Shivers of Warren. Mr. Shivers is uniquely resistant to referring to himself as “African American.” Instead, he argues he is “American.”

He maintains that if we all thought of ourselves as Americans, rather than representatives of other countries or continents, perhaps we would realize we are all one people, united by this nation. Mr. Shivers even argues the preamble to our U.S. constitution that begins “We the People” should be changed to “We the American People.”

He feels so strongly about it that he has produced t-shirts that he gives out to communicate his message. The bright white shirts emblazoned with red and blue wording say: “I am ‘We The American People.'” A beautiful but simple message on the back reads, “One God, One Nation, One People.”

I count myself fortunate to be a recipient of one of Mr. Shivers’ shirts, a gift I will wear proudly, because I agree. We Americans are all “One People” despite our skin color, religion, ethnicity or other individual backgrounds. Most of us were born here and owe our blessings and, of course, our allegiance, to the United States of America. It’s because of our forefathers and this nation that we have the right to protest for what we believe is right and against what we see as injustice.

We just need to do it in the right way and in the right place.

Let’s hope those NFL players and the protesters who believe they are being treated unfairly will come to that realization and find other methods to share their beliefs — without disrespecting the country and the flag that gave them the opportunity to do that.