Recently, I sat in the bleachers for a high school football game. My son was on the field, and I was pushing past my dislike of sports and humid Southern evenings to watch him play. He loves the game, and I love seeing my kids follow their passions.
So, there I sat, trying to follow what was happening in the game, when a whistle blew and coaches walked onto the field. A moment passed and then all of the players on both teams knelt down. An injury was announced. A player on the opposing team was hurt. I watched my son and the other boys wait silently on one knee until the player was helped off of the field.
This was a familiar experience. Over the years, my sons have played a few sports and I recognized this show of respect being given to the downed player. It didn’t matter that said player was on the other team. Yes, that team showed up on the field with the sole purpose of winning, of taking a victory at the expense of my son’s team. That is how football works. However, a hurt person is a hurt person, and no one will dare cheer for his fall. They will show respect for his pain.
As debate and outrage fly due to the current NFL players’ “take a knee” protest during the national anthem, I thought about that scene on our high school football field. I know many will disagree with me, and I am okay with that. I’ve grown out of the need for everyone to see things my way, but I believe our country is injured. There are injured individuals in our ranks and the nation as a whole feels more broken with every passing day. When there is an injury, the most respectful action an athlete can choose is to “take a knee.”
This morning, I watched a group of NFL players doing just that. As the anthem played, not one of them laughed, joked, or even talked. They held the same air of respectful silence as every person who chose to stand for that same anthem. But our country is injured, and these men took a knee. There are plenty of reasons for our black brothers and sisters, our fellow countrymen, to feel that this nation is the opposing team, that the flag we stand for stands for their defeat. Still, they took a knee.
I can respect that.
I can also respect that there are men and women who lost loved ones to war, and some of them feel differently. Thinking of this made me curious about how we are supposed to respect the flag. See, there are things common in America that I have always felt disrespected the flag. It turns out, I was right about those things.
If you are truly interested in how the American flag should be treated, check out the Flag Code.
Here are a few interesting bits from the flag code (under the section “Respect for the Flag”) that show just how little respect for our flag Americans actually have, whether they stand up to salute it or not…
- The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
- The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.
- The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.
- It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.
- No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.
I know many people and businesses that violate the flag code on a daily basis. I know plenty of military personal who violate the flag code regularly. These direct violations of flag code are part and parcel of daily life in America.
In the end, I am grateful that these athletes have chosen a respectful, non-violent, method of protest. They have chosen the path of Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi and others before and after these great men. I have my own issues with professional sports and our country’s screwed-up priorities when it comes to paying athletes versus teachers, first-responders, etc… But I refuse to dehumanize these men who have chosen a respectful way of demonstrating their pain and the pain of their people and their nation.