Civics 101 for the NFL Fan

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With the first weekend of the NFL regular season underway there is a lot to be excited about (unless you are a Jets fan- ha).  The radio talk shows have record numbers of fans calling in to complain about their team- often even if they won!  Fantasy leagues are in full swing and some of us are already wondering about some of the decisions we made on draft night.

And, unfortunately, some people are still obsessing over players’ behavior during the national anthem as if we don’t have any real problems to worry about.  Instead of being concerned about North Korea, our President’s inability to get off Twitter, 2 major hurricanes, climate change, or any REAL problem, they have decided that some backup linemen from a town they probably can’t find on a map is our biggest national crisis.  And they are wrong.

Many point to the (as of this writing) unemployed Colin Kaepernick as the poster child for what happens when you don’t stand during the anthem.  However, this simply doesn’t hold up when you dig into it.

First of all, there were many other players who did the same thing and didn’t lose their jobs.  Do you really think that if Tom Brady, or Payton Manning had done the same thing their respective teams would have fired them?  Of course not.

Second, Kaepernick was benched because he couldn’t throw it in the ocean and cut for contract/ financial reasons that became as issue because of his poor on-field performance.  Certainly his off field antics last season and the similar antics of his “friends” since have not helped (Kaepernick himself has been almost invisible as of late).

But regardless of the particulars of Kaepernick’s situation, the bottom line is that it is his right, just as it is every one American citizens’ right, do to whatever we damn well please during the national anthem.  While I am certainly not advocating flag burning or anything of the sort, I cannot say that since I don’t like it no one else should either.  It’s called free speech and it’s one of our most precious rights as Americans.  I am again reminded of a quote from a REALLY good movie that came out in 1995- The American President starring Martin Sheen.  As President Shephard, Sheen says:

“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’ You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”

So, if you truly love America and all that is represents, you cannot call for the firing, beheading, etc. of anyone exercising their rights any more than anyone else could for you exercising yours. Free speech doesn’t just mean free speech you agree with.

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