Donald Trump, The White House

‘Stay united’: Why the NY Jets are right and Colin Kaepernick is wrong about the national anthem

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This past Sunday, I was pleasantly reminded to learn that I had no need to adhere to President Donald Trump’s well-intentioned call to boycott the NFL over players kneeling during the national anthem. As it turned out, my favorite team, the New York Jets stood in unison as the national anthem played on Sept. 24 in their game against the Miami Dolphins.

Image Credit: Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton CC by 2.0

This is actually nothing new. As noted by NJ.com’s Darryl Slater in his report, “Over the past year-plus, while anthem protests have spread throughout the NFL, no Jets player has sat or taken a knee for the anthem before a game.” Last Sunday was no different.

Other teams on Sunday, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, stayed in their locker room with lone exception of former Army ranger, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who has since apologized to his team. On Monday, the Dallas Cowboys took the knee before the anthem played and then stood during it being played. Every team figured out how they were going to address the issue. The protest had gone beyond Kaepernick’s original grievance and now had become a message to President Trump.

I think they’re wrong. And so is Kaepernick. On this one, I think the Jets got it right. Regardless of anything that’s happening in the moment, standing for the national anthem remains a voluntary show of respect for the shared experience of America, the story of liberty and the strength of the Union. At the end of the day, we’re still a country that’s bigger than any one person.

As defensive end Leonard Williams explained after the game, “We decided that as a team last night in our team meeting. And, you know, a few guys brought it to our attention. The coach obviously talked about it because of the issues going on right now. And we didn’t want to send any disrespectful vibes by kneeling, so what we did was unite. That’s something we need to do as a team, that’s something that Americans need to do as a nation, you know, is stay united.”

Linebacker Demario Davis offered that, “You can talk about the problem in many different ways, in many different formats, but if you’re just talking about the problem, you’re not talking about the solutions. And I don’t know what the answer or solution is, and I’m taking it since nobody’s come forward, nobody knows what the answer or solution is. So, what we’re saying is, whatever the solution is, we’ve got to find it together. Not divided, you know, but together. United. That’s what our country is called: United States of America.”

Davis added, explaining, “It’s everybody working together toward a common goal and that’s what we symbolize. You know, you look in the locker room, you know, it’s people from all different backgrounds, you know, all different creeds, all different cultures, but we’re able to come together and lock arms, and say, whatever the problem is, we’re going to face this thing head-on, we’re going to face it together, and that’s what it’s going to take, that’s what we stand for in this locker room.”

Total class acts. And it is no surprise to me as a fan, having followed the Jets since Ken O’Brien’s final season as the starting quarterback in 1991. This is exactly what the Jets do in these situations. They pull together.

When Dennis Byrd was horrifically paralyzed in 1992 after colliding with a teammate, the team and organization stood together, and when he was able to walk again, it symbolized I think what the Jets stand for today. It’s their core ethos.

I’ve seen it personally. I was there at the Monday Night Miracle game in 2000 against the Dolphins, where I witnessed first-hand when the team came back from a 23-point 4th quarter deficit, where they were losing 30 to 7, to win in overtime, 40 to 37. When other teams might have given up, the Jets united to give it their all.

United we stand

I can attest after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there were several moving ceremonies led by the Jets organization and other franchises in the New York region — a tradition that has gone on for years. The 10-year commemoration of the attacks at the NFL 2011 Sunday night season openerwas particularly moving.

The losses felt in 2001 hit New York City very hard. A big part of the fan base are police officers, fire fighters and first responders. The team’s top superfan is Fireman Ed, who leads the crowd in the “J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!” chant every time the team scores.

You see, sports was something we New Yorkers, like many Americans, turned to in the aftermath of the unthinkable horror of the terrorist attacks — to unite. It was how we coped. We all followed the heroic stand the New York Yankees took in the 2001 World Series.

During the 7th Inning Stretch of each game, “God Bless America” was sung by the entire crowd.

When former President George W. Bush threw out the opening pitch in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, the crowd was united as one, just as were the first responders when Bush made his famous, impromptu bullhorn speech on the rubble of the World Trade Center, all chanting in unison, “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”

We wept when the Yankees lost by a single run in Game 7. It was a bittersweet and yet a fitting end to the season.

The Jets, Giants, Bills, Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Nets, Islanders, Rangers, Devils and so forth — teams across the country, too — were all a part of that. They helped in their own ways to heal the nation after an atrocious, tragic attack on U.S. soil that claimed more than 3,000 lives. We used it to rationalize that what was left in the rubble was very much still worth fighting for. So, as a nation, we channeled their energy and spirit into something positive, that whatever challenges the nation faced ahead, we would do it together.

The message was clear: United we stand.

In many ways, Sept. 11 raised the bar to stratospheric levels for what we expect from professional sports to unite the nation. That was why I cheered wholeheartedly when the Jets’ arch nemesis, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, staged what I consider the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history in February. It was a moment I could share with millions of Americans, to appreciate something truly great that had occurred. What a comeback.

That is why, more than 16 years later, I am grateful that the Jets have not forgotten the very special responsibility they took upon themselves after 9/11, on behalf of their fans, their city and their country, in the aftermath of the attacks — to unite us. They took the message to heart. They never forgot.

There is still good reason to stand to honor America

When Colin Kaepernick started his protest of the national anthem in 2016, he very clearly explained his position on the issue, stating, “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.”

Obviously, it’s not simply the flag he’s objecting to. To him, the flag symbolizes racial oppression.

That is why, I think, so many are now responding so negatively to the players and now teams taking the knee. Are they agreeing with Kaepernick’s summation that the “flag [represents] a country that oppresses black people and people of color”?

Yet, it’s the same flag the Union carried in the Civil War. 620,000 men died in that war that ultimately abolished slavery. Would Kaepernick kneel for the Battle Hymn of the Republic, too, which has the line, “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free…”? How about standing to honor those who bled the field at Gettysburg?

What makes America unique is the progress we have made on this front. After the war, we utilized the institutions of the civil society to overcome the injustices of the past. How about standing to honor the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments that abolished slavery, guaranteed equal protection of the laws and the right to vote?

Or perhaps standing to honor Brown v. Board of Education that overturned Plessy v. Ferguson? After all, this was the same flag that flew when state institutionalized segregation was abolished.

Or even, non-government segregation, as in professional sports, which used to be an all-white affair. The fact that Kaepernick got to participate in the NFL at all is a testament to the progress that has been made. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier and revolutionized modern sports that we know and love today. How about standing to honor Robinson and the brave men who fought to include folks of all races in the national spotlight?

And while we can defend Kaepernick’s right to protest free of government interference, we need not endorse the idea that somehow standing for the flag would somehow embrace the racial oppression he says he is protesting by kneeling.

In the “Other America,” Martin Luther King said that America was still racist but he never disrespected the ideals upon which the nation was founded upon like this, and like Abraham Lincoln (see: the Lincoln-Douglas debates where Lincoln invoked the Declaration’s affirmation of faith that “all men are created equal”), was essentially asking that we all live up to those ideals. King, like Lincoln, was pushing for more progress while simultaneously embracing the progress that had already been made.

On the Declaration of Independence, King found much to praise, saying, “Never before in the history of the world has a sociopolitical document expressed in such profound, eloquent and unequivocal language the dignity and the worth of human personality. The American dream reminds us—and we should think about it anew on this Independence Day — that every man is an heir of the legacy of dignity and worth.”

The reason King was successful was because the nation could join with him in his push for equality, because he took the time to convince us we were all fighting for the same ideal, the American ideal.

Kaepernick appears to be saying there is no such ideal and there never was.

Of course, it ignores much of the history to the contrary and even ignores the ideals themselves that were so boldly expressed in the Declaration. How about standing up to honor the Declaration’s central belief, that we’re all created equal?

In the end, King was never fully satisfied that enough progress had been made. Arguably, Lincoln in his last days was more optimistic. In his final speech in 1865, Lincoln was okay with reincorporating states into the Union like Louisiana, even though voting rights were not yet being extended, because they had agreed to abolish slavery and ratify the 13th Amendment. That would come later, Lincoln predicted. As John Philpot Curran once noted, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Lincoln knew there was more work to do, but he was going to bank the gains that had been made.

Overall, like Lincoln, King was persuasive because he appealed to our sense of greater justice. It was slavery and segregation that was out of step with the American ideal, not the other way around.

Ultimately, I think these are the reasons people have responded so strongly in the negative to Kaepernick. It illustrates why disrespect — in this case, to the flag that he misrepresents as a racist article — is not only an unpersuasive form of communication but is counterproductive. Lincoln and King were demonstrating true leadership, calling on those who disagreed with them to embrace their vision, invoking the American ideal. As hard as it was at the time, they were trying to unite us.

Kaepernick on the other hand has divided us. He appears to be unaware of how successful the American ideal has been historically or else he too would invoke it. If nothing else, why not rise to honor the progress that has been made in increasing freedom in our country?

To Kaepernick’s main point on police shootings, not everyone is getting away with murder. Michael Thomas Slager was a police officer who is now facing life in prison over the 2015 murder of the unarmed Walter Scott after pulling him over for a broken tail light. It should never have happened. The case was very straightforward. The facts are clear. The evidence was beyond any doubt. And when that happens, the full weight of the law should be felt. In the end, justice can be served.

We do not strive for perfection or utopia, but advancements in the cause of liberty. By disregarding the flag, Kaepernick appears to be saying that there is nothing worth standing for at all for our nation. That all those who fought for liberty — and died — should not have even bothered. That it was all somehow in vain, when if those efforts had failed, this country and the world at large, would be a much darker, more horrible place to live. It’s a misguided view of America.

The story of America is the struggle for liberty, and as imperfect as that history has been, like Lincoln, I’ll take a half of loaf than no loaf at all.

And as the Jets have reminded us on Sept. 24, we’re all in this together, and the only way we’re going to advance the cause of equal liberty is by uniting together as a nation. There is still more to be done, but we can still stand together.

Today, I’m proud to be a Jets fan and I’m proud to be an American.

As a side note, the Jets won their game against the Dolphins on Sunday. They stood for their flag in unison and won an emotional, decisive victory, 20 to 6. Good for them.

Even if that’s the only game the team wins this year, I’m glad the Jets are taking a stand for America — and so should you.

Correction: The Dallas Cowboys did take the knee before the national anthem played on Monday Night Football, but stood when the anthem began.

This is a guest post by Robert Romano Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.
  • 4USA2

    Thumbs up to the NY Jets!

  • Robert

    What the players are saying is the Government has no idea of taking up the problem of Police brutality, when the President, gives a speech and tells how the police should rough up person arrested, “Throw therm in the paddy wagon hard.” when most of Trumps appointed cabinet has a history of racial bias, how would minorities hope to bring it to National and international attention, most of Europe thinks out police are totally out of line, treating persons as if they are guilty with no proof of that.

    • Robert Pekarik

      Our President wasn’t referring to a race or creed when he made this statement but to anti-American radical antifa terrorists who’s goal it is to silence anyone who disagrees with their agenda. Why doesn’t every NFL team go to the South side of Chicago and take the knee for the people that are being murdered their on a daily basis? Instead they want to focus on belittling our nation, belittling our military and belittling our law enforcement. What they are doing is supporting the radicals in America who want to make the decisions, without facts, a jury and trial system, who they want to lynch.

      • Robert

        Robert Pekarik
        It does seem very funny that the President was very quick to support the White Nationalist in Charlotte saying they were not in the wrong, but as soon as the minorities do anything he is jumping straight up and down about their actions belittles our military, who has not fought a war defending America since WWII, so no use saying those spilled their blood or died defending what we believe in, Law enforcement needs cleaning up we are the only country in the industrialized world where law enforcement is not held accountable and in Europe that makes the USA a police state.
        What I am doing is saying these people players or not have an absolute right to protest in any way they see fit as long as it does not endanger others. The Supreme Court has said that on many occasions and said on two separate times that to not stand for the pledge or anthem is not showing disrespect for the country as a whole it is just a quiet protest.
        Most likely in your opinion blacks should know their place and stay in it, and by no means be treated equal to white people.

        • Robert Pekarik

          Stop playing the race card. That’s all you have because you won’t look past your failure to really see what is going on. The NFL, in it’s rule book, states that all players MUST be out on the field during the National Anthem with their helmets in their left hands, standing at attention with respect. They are nothing more than collateral damage used by the anti-American liberal progressives who despise our nation and everything it stands for. So go after our symbol of unity and replace it with what = gulags to imprison we the people who can see through their evil agendas? Don’t think it won’t happen if these anarchists who parade themselves around as heroes of the victim class which they created in order to form our United States of America into a perfect socialist controlled nation. Wake up, you can’t be that naive after really looking at how these people manipulate the weak minded no and low information citizens.

          • Robert

            Robert Pekarik
            If anyone is playing the race card it is the Conservatives. A NFL rule book can not override a Supreme Court decision of at least 6 times they have said that a persons Expression is part of Freedom of Speech. Every legal eagle says they cannot be punished for their actions. No one wants to hear the poll results that almost 60% of persons where the Anthem is played only get up to prevent being ostrasized by the others there. If all these so called patriots are so patriotic how come the majority were not lining up to join the military from Korea right up to present, including Trump who got 6 deferments from Nam. Nationalism is a thing of the past and it will not be back it is evolutionary history every where in the world.
            If you think that being Democratic Socialist is so bad, that is the kind of thinking that has brought this country to its point that we are now. Democratic Socialist countries have nearly everything better than the USA, higher GDP, better Education, better medical we are up to #37 in the world from #39 because of Obama Care, those same Democratic Socialist countries have happier people also, mainly because everyone is treated equally and discrimination is not legal in any way.
            I am neither weak minded or ignorant I am a Yale law school graduate who spent 26 years as a intelligence officer, 4 or it in Nam. I totally support what they players are doing as well as most of my personal friends, fight for your country and come home and be treated worse than any white rif raf that has done nothing for anyone except them selves.

          • lenn

            Why don’t you go live in those other countries that you praise so much, you won’t be missed.

          • Robert Pekarik

            Then why did the NFL refuse to allow Dallas Cowboy players putting Dallas police patches on their helmets to honor the fallen? Why did the NFL not allow the New England Patriot players to honor the victims of 9/11? The Constitution didn’t apply to these NFL decisions because their rule book forbade it. Hypocrites like you are a dime a dozen and inhabit the swamp of immorality, hypocrisy and perversion. You people couldn’t think your way out of a paper bag and can never be taken seriously. You have no idea that you are a slave of the corrupt to the core liberal progressives who have found it easy to manipulate useful idiots like yourself.

          • Robert

            Robert Pekarik
            You do seem to have a chip on that shoulder. The NFL rules are the NFL rules if they do not take away a persons right, now the Supreme Court on no less than 6 occasions have said that no one can be punished in any way for free speech and what the players are doing is considered free speech. It is amazing that 64% of Americans agree with them, Where else could a protest get this much attention world wide, making the USA look like the police state it is in reality, when officers can shoot persons and never be held accountable, like in third world countries.
            No w what has being in Nam got to do with patriotism I started there in 1959 on the bombing missions out of Thialand and left Nam in 1965 for a short time, now what did that war have anything to do with US patriotism, it was just a money maker for the Military industrial complex which Johnson was heavily invested in. Vietnam was no threat to the world or the US so where is the patriotism from for our service people who fought and died there. Tell me ahow any of the sacrifice had anything to do the US except claiming a lot of innocent soldiers so the people in the industry could get rich, I see Trump had six deferments to not go.
            If you have no idea what Democratic Socialism is then you should school your self on it, or closest neighbors, Canada are Socialist as well as nearly all of Europe, look at what the US has done to the countries you mention to try to overthrow the Governments of those countries.
            I never ran anywhere I served 26 years as a Military officer, 4 as an combat intelligence officer in Nam.
            One thing I am not a blind follower of anything that is why I was in intelligence the search for the truth and disregard the BS.
            HAVE A NICE DAY

          • Robert Pekarik

            They did take away the rights of the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots players. They act like tough employers when it suits them but then they cower to employee’s who flaunt their stand for our National Anthem rule. You have no idea what a police state is. How moronic are you? Go over to Venezuela, North Korea, Russia, China, Iran and live in each of those countries for a year each and then spout your asinine garbage about our country if you make it back. You are truly a useful idiot for the far left liberal progressive anarchists.

          • Robert

            Robert Pekarik
            You must think you are still in the Military where everyone has to do as they are told, there are a lot of Companies who demand a dress code, to tell you what you can and can not wear while at work, they even demand you have no political signs on the vehicle to park in the company parking lot. Why would the rules for the NFL be any different, the kneeling or sitting for the Anthem or Pledge is protected by established law. I do have close friends who live in all those countries except China and North Korea, and I hear nothing from them saying they are a Police state, my major who married a Venezuela girl and now lives there said the only people bothered by the happening are the poor. He and his family have plenty as do all the mid level persons he knows, Now what rights are Iranian’s denied, we have over a thousand here going to higher education, I cosponsored a Russian student 2 years ago and we even went to visit his home town, with permission from the US Government, which I have to have to go to several countries. We have Americans coming and going from all those countries daily with the exception of North Korea and that has just stopped recently.
            I may be a useful idiot for the far left but at least I am an educated Idiot more than I can say for some who believe everything that the Conservative sites tell them with out checking any thing out.
            HAVE A GOOD DAY

          • Robert Pekarik

            I forgot to thank you and the rest of your far left liberal progressive anti-American anarchists for waking up Americans who stayed out of the political process until they finally realized that if we would have continued to let anarchists like Obama, Clinton, Pelosi, Wasserman-Schultz, Bernie and Shumer run our nation it would have been totally destroyed within a decade. You have no idea at all what it’s like to be an American. All you want to do is fundamentally transform America into Venezuela and the sad part of it is you have not idea that you are being used by the corrupt to the core democrat party and main stream media as a useful idiot to push their pathetic and evil agendas. As the days go by and we draw closer to the mid-terms we the people will clean out the swamp ourselves at the voting booth and you will always be afforded the choice to move to one of the countries that adhere to your socialist/communist dream.

          • Robert

            Robert Pekarik
            To start with I am not a liberal, I have been a registered Republican since 1959. I deal with the facts as they are and will be. Just like the other Republicans you call RINOs who deal with the facts as not to give one false hope. If you think any great changes are going to happen under Trump you are in for a political lesson, the people run this country, not a party or a President. That is the way the Constitution demands it, majority rule that is why everything in the Constitution is demanded to by Majority vote and gives the courts the right to challenge any thing the majority do not like. Look at the history of this country it has never been one party or the other for very long. The people always demand change and get it, this time it was out of desperation because of the bad economy caused by the Housing bubble crash on 2008, from which Obama brought this country back from the brink to a very stable market today. People voted for false promises that jobs would return here, when anyone who runs any kind of manufacturing business where the good paying jobs were, knows that the cost of labor is the highest cost we have in manufacturing normally exceeding 40% of cost and taxes are always 20% or less. The country is going through the same thing that Europe went through after industry moved here in the early 1900s because we had lots of immigrants and no industry so we had cheap labor, years ago industry moved within the United States to cheap labor mainly moving from the North to the South, the Carolina’s and South West, that was nothing to do with taxes it was ll about cheaper labor. Just look at it the countries who provide free college to their young people are here taking all the high tech jobs because some thinking free college costs the tax payer to much, but in the end we loose because of lack of education which most can no longer afford, look at the college prices in 1950 dollars and you will see the cost ratio is almost 4 times the cost in today’s dollars.
            The people pick the members of Congress and when the majority vote in 2108 I do think most will by that time have an eye opener as to what is going on, so your cleaning up the swamp may not be as easy as you presume.
            The last election had two candidates neither one that either party member supported entirely.
            HAVE A GOOD DAY

          • Robert Pekarik

            We the people demanded and changed the corrupt Obama administration. We the people will continue to rid our nation of corrupt, dishonest, selfish, greedy and immoral leadership. The deep stated does exist and has been destroying America for decades. Now that there is instant information available to we the people the corruption has been and will be exposed on a daily basis and the evil and immoral incompetents who are running America will not have an easy road maintaining control. The current deep state is petrified of our President because he tells it like it is, loves our nation and could care less about the pathetic career politicians who really believe they are smarter than everyone else. Just look at the people who back them and support them = uneducated, easily manipulated and they all march to the tune of the pied pipers of anarchy. You will join them and the rest of the lemmings in blindly marching over the cliff of insanity. Anyone who has a functioning brain does not believe nor trust the main stream media and their stooges who have abandoned our One Nation Under God for a divided nation under evil.

    • Betty Haynie

      Robert, just what countries do you refer to? Are those countries the ones that behead Christians, throw homosexuals off roofs, don’t allow women to leave the house without a male member of the house in accompaniment, or kill women who have been raped? If you think America is so bad perhaps you would prefer to live in one of those countries.

      • Robert

        Betty Haynie
        I reality you should have went to a better school, comparing what goes on in Asia and Africa to try to say it happens in Europe. I did live in two or three of those countries and they are no where as bad a the Christian Radicals make them out to be, you speak of the religious radicals which 90% are not and less than half even are into religion like in the USA where lass than 29% say they are into religion, almost 80% say they believe in God but say not as the church preaches it, why do you think so many churches are empty today, people are educated and according to statistics the majority who are into religion have a high school or less education.

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