Opinion: Both sides are right in NFL national anthem standing debate

Sep 12, 2017, 6:50 PM

FILE - Int his Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and qu...

FILE - Int his Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid (35) and quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif. Reid has resumed his kneeling protest for human rights during the national anthem, after joining then-teammate Kaepernick's polarizing demonstration last season. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Now that Week One of the NFL season is in the rear-view mirror, I would like to finally address this standing or kneeling for the national anthem nonsense.

It’s very fitting, to me, that week one ended on 9/11 with a Monday night doubleheader.

You see, Sept. 11 has been rebranded as Patriots’ Day. I can’t think of a more fitting day to stand with pride, hand-over-heart, looking at our nation’s flag, while the national anthem is played.

So of course all of the TV cameras were fixed on both sidelines, scanning up and down the line of players, looking for the one that isn’t standing, the one that will make headlines.

Look, the bottom line in this debate is simple: Whether you side with those that don’t stand for the national anthem or you lambaste those that don’t, you are right.

Those that don’t stand for the national anthem and those that defend that action or inaction, in this case, are perfectly within their American-born rights to do so.

Those that have commented or who take to social media to broadcast how insulted they are by people not standing for the national anthem and the disrespectful nature of that person’s actions are perfectly within their American-born right to do so.

You see, both sides are right here. Hundreds of thousands of men and women have died to gain and to preserve our right of free speech, our freedom of expression and even our right to be insulted by other’s actions or comments.

But please understand the First Amendment was not written to protect us from polite speech or polite expression of feelings. It was written to protect our right to express ourselves in impolite and offensive ways. It was written so the government cannot silence our non-threatening voices and actions.

Yes, not standing for the national anthem is an unheard of action in my book. But that’s MY book. Do I think that players should be punished for not doing so? Absolutely not.

Do I think that those that have voiced their displeasure or said mean things about these players for not standing for the national anthem should be punished? Absolutely not.

And that, my friends, is the First Amendment, that is American.

Now with regards to the man that started all of this nonsense, Colin Kaepernick, he’s not being punished for not standing for the national anthem. He is a very talented quarterback that remains unsigned and unemployed because he has become a potential cancer to any team for which he suits up.

Now please understand: I am a brand-new flag football coach for 9- and 10-year-olds. I will admit openly that I am not an NFL level coach. I am not versed in dealing with egos, management, ownership and the media.

But I do understand group dynamics, so I’m not surprised that all NFL teams have passed on signing Kaepernick because of the media attention and hype he would bring to every national anthem of all 16 games they play this season.

That only takes away from what’s going on on the field, in the locker room and on the sidelines.

If that point hasn’t quite sunk in yet let’s go to the case of Tim Tebow. You remember him: The very talented, very athletic, Heisman Trophy-winning, national championship-winning quarterback from Florida.

Why is he not playing in the NFL? Why did he never really get a fair shot in the NFL? Because the media clamped on to a young man who openly speaks of his faith and prays on the sideline.

The media made him a sideshow. The media made him a cancer to NFL teams.

So here we have two amazingly gifted athletes, one that refuses to stand for the national anthem to protest the policing of black Americans and another that takes the “guns to the sky” celebration one step further by taking a knee and praying on the sideline.

Both are having their talents wasted away due to actions that are very well protected by our nation’s Constitution.

Their actions are just not protected by the NFL’s culture of “team first, individual expression second.”

Michael Russell

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Opinion: Both sides are right in NFL national anthem standing debate