By David G. Firestone
One of the big issues in American sports is the national anthem. Many NFL and NBA players have made the bold decision to not stand during the National Anthem because of the recent police-involved shootings of unarmed African-Americans. In the words one one player: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder”
This issue seemed to be dying down in recent weeks, until The President made an inflammatory speech concerning the matter, which reignited the issue, and kicked the protests into high gear. This last week, so many players were protesting his remarks, that it has become a major news story. Since then, a number of NASCAR teams have stated that there is no tolerance for disrespecting the flag during the national anthem. I’ll get to that part in a little bit, but I need to discuss why a lot of people are upset about these protests.
There is a major disconnect between those who support the protests, and those who think the players are acting selfishly, or those who are offended by their actions. I’m going to state one of the more reasonable arguments against them. I’m doing this because I’m of the belief that you should learn the reasons why people who disagree with you believe what they believe. When you do that, you grow as a person, and you may learn something about yourself.
I’m not going to waste my time on white racists, since they don’t deserve my time. Instead, I’m going to focus on military members, veterans, and their families. I’ve always supported the troops. I have the utmost respect for those who have served in the Armed Forces. My grandfather was one of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy during D-Day. I’ve also, like a lot of educated people, realized that you can support the troops themselves without always supporting what they are fighting for.
In the minds of a lot of active duty military members, veterans, and families of deceased military members, the players’ actions are not so much an attempt to make America better, but his actions are disrespecting a country that means more to them than anyone else. For those who served in Germany and Japan, for those who served in Vietnam, for those who served in Iraq, and Afghanistan, Their actions across as a slap in the face. For those who have lost friends, comrades, and family members, their action come across as selfish.
I can’t, in all sincerity, dismiss the opinions of someone who fought for our country. I can’t dismiss the opinions of a parent who has had to bury their child, a soldier who died fighting for a country that, flawed as it is, that solider believed in. I can’t dismiss the opinion of a solider who has lost friends and comrades in battle. To them, the players’ actions are opening up wounds, and bringing back pain.
Now I need to discuss why NASCAR teams are saying what they are about these protests. Like it or not, NASCAR’s fan base is overwhelmingly conservative. Not all fans are, but a lot of fans are. They are also highly patriotic. They are proud to be American, and they don’t care who knows it. As such, most of NASCAR’s fan base will overwhelmingly react negatively if there are anthem protests. Fans drive the sport in NASCAR, so this is not a minor issue. Above and beyond that, NASCAR is non union, so drivers and teams have little protection. If a driver or crew member were to protest, said driver or crew member could and would be fired on the spot. This has been used to keep drivers in line, and there is no doubt in my mind that this is used to prevent protests.
I’m not going to force my opinions on what the right answer is. I just wanted to give perspective to help people pop the bubbles of ignorance they live in, on one side or the other. These are real reasons, and things to think about.