Irony in NFL player Anthem protests Sunday

By Gary Brock - Guest Columnist

I have no idea what is going to happen Sunday at 1 p.m. when our National Anthem begins to play at 10 NFL stadiums across America.

I have read that some NFL players will either sit, take a knee or in some other way “protest” by showing disrespect to its most sacred symbol – the American flag during the National Anthem.

Like many others who have commented on this protest since San Francisco’s quarterback started this a few weeks ago by sitting down at exhibition games during the playing of the National Anthem, I agree that he has a right to do so, just as I have the right to criticize him in this column. However, it is with this point and this point alone that I agree with his action. Just because he has a right to do so doesn’t mean he should.

I read the articles about what “might happen” at Sunday’s games regarding protests and notice that there is a lot of alleged “support” for these players’ cause among other athletes, the “community at large” and even some veterans out there. There may be such isolated instances, but overall, my response to the “growing” support for this protest is simple: Media hype.

This rather rich (and he is rich compared to most people) athlete and others who apparently are joining him in their disrespect for our Flag can sit all they want. But the bottom line is that they are protesting the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.

Fundamentally I disagree strongly with this guy’s very premise of protesting what he sees as racial injustice and police brutality by his symbolic gesture of disrespecting the American Flag.

According to a Washington Post study, in the first half of 2016 about 500 people died in police shootings, and about half of these were African-Americans.

However, so far in Chicago along, almost the same number of people have been murdered in the first six months of this year, about 500, and most of them, according to Niall McCarty in Forbes magazine, were young African-American men killed in gang-related violence.

He says: “(Chicago) hasn’t experienced a single day without a homicide since February of last year and the murder rate is at a 20-year high. The majority of the victims are young black men from a small number of neighborhoods in the city.

With an average of 12 people shot every day, shootings and homicides have become a grim normality for some residents. In 2015, 2,988 people were shot and 2016′s figure already stands at 2,949. In order to illustrate the sheer extent of violence in Chicago, a BBC report compared the number of deaths with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since 2001, Chicago has experienced 7,916 murders (as of September 06, 2016). The number of Americans killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was 2,384 and 4,504 respectively since 2001.”

Shocking statistics, and certainly shocking when compared to – nationwide – the small number of police-related shootings that have generated so much attention.

Are there unjustified shootings of African-American men by police in America? Yes there are. But it is rare.

Sadly, what isn’t rare are the numbers of African-Americans — many innocent bystanders — who die during gang-related or drug-related violence in our large cities like Chicago.

To me, this is what these rich and often pampered professional athletes should be focusing their attention on this weekend.

Instead of protesting perceived police brutality in America by sitting down or taking a knee during the National Anthem, they should be protesting in front of record companies, film studios, and radio stations that glorify a gangster mentality and lifestyle in young men and condone violence as a way of achieving success. The lives of these innocent victims of gang violence matter, also.

There is no small irony that on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 brutal Islamic terrorist attacks on America that our Flag would be the subject of such protests. No one believes our nation is perfect, but unlike many countries we are always working to correct injustices. Certainly the Flag they protest represents the sacrifices made by millions to ensure them the right to that protest, a right not granted everywhere.

Now, perhaps there will not be many of these protests Sunday. I suspect there will be a lot of coverage of those that do take place. And that’s fine.

But I hope and believe most people put all of this in proper context. For every athlete who disrespects our Flag, thousands more will honor the freedoms all Americans — including these very athletes — are blessed with. It is that Flag that symbolizes those freedoms.

I hope everyone remembers that Sunday.

Gary Brock is a resident of Fayette County and can be reached at 937-556-5759.

By Gary Brock

Guest Columnist