Sunday I went to the Saints game in New Orleans versus the Detroit Lions. Aside from the game I was interested to see how the fans would react to the players’ protest against police brutality and social injustice. A neighbor of mine in New Orleans told me a couple weeks ago that he was a season ticket holder but refused to go to any more Saints games because the players kneeled during the national anthem. Players from the Saints along with players from many other NFL teams have been using their platform as television superstars to protest police brutality and social injustice by kneeling, sitting, or even staying in the locker room during the singing of the national anthem. It has turned into a divisive issue where players have been booed and President Trump even said that players should be fired for not standing.
Recently Saints players decided to change their protest due to the backlash they were getting, not only from the fans and the general public, but also from their employers. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that any player who doesn’t stand during the anthem wouldn’t play. All Cowboys players have been standing for the anthem.
(saints quarterback Drew Brees #9 kneels with players in protest)
I’m really confused here, what was the change? Did they kneel before or did the kneel after the change?
Saints Quarterback Drew Bress when asked about the change to kneel prior to the anthem rather than during the anthem said, “It shows solidarity and unity for us as a team. It pays respect to the cause of social injustice and inequality, and it pays respect to the flag of the United States of America.”
The Saints players saw it as a compromise. It was a way to appease angry fans so that the players could try to keep the focus on the real message and unify everyone behind the cause.
The Saints began this tactic last game versus the Miami Dolphins in London. Sunday in New Orleans, again, they kneeled a few minutes before the anthem was to start playing. Just after the Saints kneeled an announcement came in the stadium for a moment of silence for a police officer killed in the line of duty, his picture was shown on the big screen in the stadium. The fans booed, loudly. When the players were finished kneeling and stood up the fans cheered.
Were the fans booing just because the players knelt, or because they knelt during a moment of silence for a slain police officer? It was probably a mix of both reasons. Fans took to twitter to express their discontent with the players ‘disrespect’ to the police officer.
Is it wrong to kneel quietly during a moment of silence? Is that also an unwritten rule of universal respect? Is it not ok to champion a dire circumstance like racial inequality while also paying tribute to someone else?
Also, is it just a coincidence that the Saints organization would choose a moment of silence for this officer before the anthem when they knew the Saints players would be kneeling at that time? Anyone could guess that many fans would likely react angrily. Opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement and justice for police brutality, have spun the narrative to say that you are either for or against police.
They have created a strawman argument to halt progress and manipulate the public into a divide. You can be against government injustice without being against government, much like you can be against police brutality without being against a police force.
Arguments have been continuously put forth to crush the movement however it manifests. We were told that the players’ protest was unacceptable because it was ‘disrespectful to the flag, our country, the military’. When the players compromise and hold their protest before the anthem, things like a moment of silence are now not meshing with the protest.
But what if we removed the anthem, the flag, the police officer’s moment of silence, and anything else besides the message of the protest? Well that has been done and the reaction is shocking. Fans have been booing NFL players just for simply kneeling, when the anthem isn’t playing. The Baltimore Ravens were booed as they knelt before the anthem, even as an announcement was made for everyone to “pray as a nation to embrace kindness, justice, unity and equality”. The Cowboys were also booed when they took a knee before the anthem with owner Jerry Jones.
This is the indisputable proof that people are against equality and justice, whether they know it or not. The issue is clear, there are no more excuses. People are being led to be against the players, against social justice, and this kind of thing is nothing new in our country. All of the excuses and arguments against the anthem protest don’t hold up when examined. Our country is an abstract concept, the flag is a piece of cloth. You have to ask what are we really talking about? A patriot is someone who strongly defends their country. If you are protesting against systemic injustice as the players describe, if you are fighting for the rights of the people of this country, aren’t you a patriot? Aren’t you respecting people more than anyone by calling for rights and liberties to be protected? Isn’t the anthem the exact time and place to talk about the freedom of your fellow countrymen?
So was this police officers moment of silence implemented by the Saints ownership to further the divide, to create enough conflict for the players to fold their protesting? I wouldn’t be surprised. The NFL and owners want to see this go away. The NFL has scheduled a meeting next week to discuss how to stop these protests from happening. I believe they will try to buy it off by donating to some charities. But equality and justice will take more than that and it can start by people understanding the situation at hand and showing support and solidarity. And for those who say they just want politics out of football, we shouldn’t even be playing a game until this horrific reality of racial injustice and systemic oppression is fixed.
At the Saints game after the fans booed and the players stood for the national anthem, I looked around as the song started playing to see how the fans would react, to see if anyone would sit down. Many sang along, some put their hands over their hearts, but no one sat down or kneeled. New Orleans is over 60% African American, they’ve experienced some of the worst cases of racial injustice and police brutality. I saw fans of color next to me who booed the players as they knelt and then energetically sang along with the anthem. After a minute of gazing around the massive stadium and not seeing a single person sitting, I took a seat to the murmurs of people surrounding me.