I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan — I know I already lost many readers with that statement but bear with me here — and this weekend I saw something I never thought would happen: Eagles fans and New York Giants fans linking arms and standing together.
I’m more used to these same people fighting over a little yellow flag or Eli Manning and awkward face. Sorry, force of habit.
For one purpose, these teams and fans put their rivalry aside to focus on one single issue: inequality and racism in America.
There were countless fine examples of teams or players showing their passion for fixing the issue.
On Monday night, the Dallas Cowboys players, coaches and even owner/GM Jerry Jones linked arms and took a moment to kneel together before the national anthem.
I truly loved this group unity even if it was for the team I hate most in the NFL and their owner who I still believe may be the next Sith Lord. Again, my apologies. Go Eagles.
The most notable example of this came from the controversy in Pittsburgh. The Steelers players decided as a group to stand in the tunnel during the anthem. But 10 steps ahead of them stood offensive tackle and retired Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva.
He stood alone with his hand on his heart, saying the lyrics to the anthem as it played.
Over the course of the hours that followed came loud voices of hate and ridicule from people across the country directed toward Steeler Nation.
I refused to make any public comment about this action until I heard from the players themselves, who were a little too busy doing what they are paid to do to make comments.
Later media reports would show that the team stayed standing right behind him in support of his way of doing the national anthem as well as the rest of the team.
After Villanueva’s jersey sales finished at the top of the NFL shop for the day, he was able to clarify what happened. I highly recommend anyone go watch his press conference to listen to his genius words.
My favorite and notable part came when Villanueva was asked if he would be offended if his teammates chose to kneel for the anthem.
He said: “I don’t think as a veteran I would take offense, I think as a big picture we are discussing different things… nobody here thinks that when you are taking a knee you are offending the flag.”
Before moving forward many would find it necessary to know what I do during the national anthem: I always stand and I would never kneel. I do this because of what I think of when I see the flag and hear the anthem.
Growing up an athlete I heard the anthem countless times and I was always excited during that pre-game/match moment.
I would calm myself and think of the sacrifice that is made by the men and women who defend the flag.
I have known and been close to people who have lost their lives fighting for our nation and safety.
Today when I hear the anthem I still think of these things along with many more things that have happened since then.
I am married to a very strong and very beautiful army soldier who is currently overseas, and I am a brother to a man who would give his own life in the line of duty to protect any civilian of any race. For those reasons, I stand.
Though I would appreciate it if people would stand during the national anthem, I understand and I am aware of the purpose of why these players are kneeling during the anthem.
Again, I would prefer any other action during the national anthem than sitting.
Ultimately, the reason for kneeling is not about the flag, though.
It is not about the statements made by President Trump, though that definitely added fuel to this fire.
These players are not taking these actions with any intent to disrespect the flag or service members.
Not a single player, coach, owner or anyone associated with the teams from this weekend has stated that was their purpose.
They had a clearer message of showing that they will not be divided by where they come from or the color of their skin.
I acknowledge the fact that Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid began this movement based on the police brutality cases of 2016.
This issue has grown and morphed though into the more obvious fact that this is about racism in America.
In a recent New York Times article Reid wrote, “It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel… What we need now is numbers.
“Some people acknowledge the issues we face yet remain silent bystanders.”
Any true sports fan will tell you the numbers don’t lie. I believe this week we saw numbers in the thousands in support of this cause.
These players have a positive message, but many will continue to have their words and actions misconstrued as some sort of hate speech.
I go through my newsfeed and see people saying how no one cares what they are saying and “these millionaires need to go back to the game and stop with all the politics.” I absolutely resent that.
These are American citizens just like the many of us here on campus who have a right to their opinion.
How on earth someone could hate a group of individuals for using their popularity and access to media to send a positive message across the nation boggles my mind. Now these men should not be looked at as the “voice of the voiceless” or necessarily leaders, but as role models who are willing to speak up and say when something is not OK.
We have a voice in America, and it is a beautiful, yet dangerous, thing. It’s part of the Constitution that is defended by thousands and thousands of men and women.
The players, coaches, owners and others tried to make the point clear that there is an issue in this nation that needs addressed, and unless you are without electricity or outside friends, you heard that point this weekend.
Twist these actions any way you want; I mean it’s your right. But I urge you to listen to these men. Understand what they are truly trying to say.
I will agree that these players need to do more in the future to show that they do care about this movement.
I have seen many men who are a part of this league make statements that have shown the point of this article.
There are players who do donate part of their pay to foundations that help in some basis of this cause.
The good part is that you don’t read about it because it is not about the player and his ego wanting to be known as a great man.
The bad part is that there should be more people doing this same thing.
Do not let any of these side conversations distract you from the focus of this issue of racism we live with in America.
I hope that many will read this and ask, “What can I do?” Or at least that was one of my goals in writing.
Many may read this and try to find me to express their anger over something I have said. I understand that, too.
That’s just part of the role of wanting to be in the media. My main goal is just to try to get people talking, discussing and understanding the issue that was brought up in the last week and to not let this discussion die.
Do not make this into some fad that everyone was just talking about at one point. Do not be distracted by other so-called “issues” that serve no purpose other than to steer the focus away from the real ones.
There are more issues than racism in this country, but it cannot be forgotten as much as it has in the past.
I believe I did my part of using my platform and skills I have gained in media to make my message heard.
I challenge any reader to do the same. Discuss the issues.
Though they are uncomfortable to talk about, they will not just go away overnight.
Be understanding of the issues, be open for your opinion to change and be loving to people who are different in this world. Be vocal.