Concerning protesting the national anthem, Colin Kaepernick fired it off last year. Then, President Trump decided to slam the players of the National Football League who also engage in these antics, rightly saying it disrespects the flag. The fans agree. Seventy-two percent of Americans think that Kaepernick’s actions are unpatriotic. Trump has already won this war. Everyone who sees players take a knee thinks about one thing: these guys are being disrespectful to the flag, the country, and especially the men and women who have served—and those who continue to serve—to protect this nation. There’s no denying that. Liberals in their anti-Trump bubbles think the president can’t with this. As with most things, they’re wrong. If your side has to explain this, you’re losing. People might be open to hearing about police brutality and race inequality, but when you partake in actions that look like you’re spitting on the flag—that’s tossed out the window. Of course, these guys can say how they feel. There are a multitude of outlets (i.e. social media) from which they can make their points on culture without stepping on a rake. In this case, they jumped on it. Why? They think their fans don’t like Trump. Correction: millions of them do, which is why you’re in this wholly avoidable public relations disaster.
Salena Zito is a writer for the Washington Examiner and New York Post. She’s been in Trump country for years. She saw the neo-populist wave coming long before anyone in the liberal news media did. Some still fail to see it. She’s logged over 100,000 miles speaking with people all over Middle America. When the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to not even show up on the field for the Star-Spangled Banner, it was a bit shocking. Kaepernick was with the San Francisco 49ers when he started taking a knee. That’s par for the course; it’s liberal California. And San Francisco is its own nutty, lefty, hippie city-state in its own right. But Pittsburgh is a working class bastion. It’s in the heart of Western Pennsylvania, which while Democratic, is filled with right-leaning Democrats, with strong pro-gun and anti-abortion sentiments.
Yet, the Steelers attempt to not play politics by remaining in the tunnel for the opening ceremony was disastrous. First of all, it was seen as playing politics and it only draws more attention to the controversy when you’re conspicuously absent. Second, they lost to the Chicago Bears, so a bad day was made worse.
Zito spoke with a few natives of The Burgh, one of which was a retired captain from the 10th Mountain Division, who felt the NFL is putting sticking it to Trump over honoring the flag. He also noted that when offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva stood at the tunnel alone with his hand over his heart that represented another cultural bookmark; that veterans are alone and isolated. They volunteer to protect this country; they get deployed, and then arrive home to a citizenry that is clueless as to what’s going on out there. In case some of us have forgotten, this nation is still at war in Afghanistan—and some in the NFL are protesting the flag.
We bleed black and gold here,” said Sean Parnell, a Pittsburgh native and former US Army Airborne Ranger who served in the legendary 10th Mountain Division for six years, retiring as a captain.
But after the Steelers’ decision to not participate in the national anthem last Sunday, Parnell is not so sure about the strength of that nation.
“As a Pittsburgher, the team abstaining from taking the field during the national anthem was crushing to me for a few reasons. I come from a family that is Pittsburgh through and through — three generations. My grandfather worked as an usher at Forbes Field, Three Rivers and PNC Park. Loyalty to Pittsburgh sports, well, it is not just a hobby and we aren’t simply fans. It’s a way of life around these parts. We hold our athletes and owners to a high standard. And on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to meet that standard. And not just one or two players, but the entire franchise, from owner on down.”
Parnell was particularity struck by the image of Alejandro Villanueva, the sole member of the team to come out of the safety of the tunnel before Sunday’s game and hold his hand over his heart while the national anthem played. All of his teammates, all of his coaches, stood yards away from him within the shadow of the tunnel.
Parnell said players put their protest of President Donald J. Trump and his comments about the NFL above the American tradition of honoring the flag.
“Watching Alejandro Villanueva stand by himself, honoring our nation and flag highlighted the pain and isolation so many veterans feel here at home,” he said.
“Men and women that volunteer to serve this nation stand on a very thin line between hope and darkness. They watch their friends die in service to a country that they love. A place that they themselves would die for. Then they come home to a country where in some cases they feel like exiles, surrounded by citizens that don’t truly understand what they have, or what freedom truly is, or what it takes to protect and defend it.”
Standing for the Star-Spangled Banner should not be a political battle. It’s literally the easiest thing to do. Just stand for the flag and then engage in whatever discourse you wish. This isn’t the hill to die on, but liberal decided to fall into another one of Trump’s legal traps in which the NFL is going to endure punishment. A lot of debates about community policing, race, and injustice could have been tossed to fans in an efficient way. One in which they still may not like, but at least they didn’t disrespect the flag. The blowback would have been much less compared to what’s going on right now. Alas, that’s not what happened. They just managed to piss everyone off at the expense of whatever cause they were protesting for with taking a knee.
Standing for the flag is a uniting activity. It’s not divisive.