I feel this is going to require a disclaimer. I write these columns of my own free will and, even though it’s already been stated, what I write in these columns is not a direct reflection of the Alliance Times-Herald. The fact that I have to give a disclaimer for having a different opinion is ridiculous, but I’m seeking compromise. Plenty of times have I stood on the unpopular side of debates in Western Nebraska, in Alliance, in the whole state, but my goal here (as I said) is to find a way for us to move forward instead.
There’s a discussion we need to have. Yes, it’s about our flag and #TakeAKnee. It’s a topic that has swept the entire nation, including Alliance. It’s an important topic, though arguably not as important as the immediate needs of Americans in Puerto Rico for some. You may disagree with me on this, but at least this might provoke critical thought. Our country functions on respectful arguments without personal attacks, so that is exactly what I’m going to do here, despite the personal attacks I continue to put up with for doing so.
The argument is that football players who take a knee are disrespecting the flag. I can see how you might take it that way, considering you have family and friends in the military … just like the rest of us. Some veterans stated it’s disrespectful while other vets state that they served this country to allow these players to take a knee. This talking point in the argument is at a standstill then. It isn’t effective in persuading either side of the argument because they both negate each other.
Even so, it’s not like these players are taking a knee for the sole purpose of disrespecting our flag and those who served, yet that’s how it’s being perceived … There hasn’t been a single athlete who stated directly, “I’m taking a knee during the anthem because I hate that flag and those who served.” Even so, if they wanted to disrespect the flag and DID happen to state that, do you think that they would just take a knee to do it?
So what is their reason for taking a knee? If we haven’t asked the question “why?” then do we really understand what it is that’s going on?
Let’s start at the beginning of this, when Colin Kaepernick first took a knee. It was Nate Boyer, Green Beret in the U.S. Army and former NFL player for the Seattle Seahawks, also a white male, who gave the suggestion to Kaepernick. Kaepernick originally just sat on the bench during the anthem. Boyer wrote an open letter to Kaepernick published in The Army Times on Aug. 30 of last year:
“I’m not judging you for standing up for what you believe in. It’s your inalienable right. What you are doing takes a lot of courage, and I’d be lying if I said I knew what it was like to walk around in your shoes. I’ve never had to deal with prejudice because of the color of my skin, and for me to say I can relate to what you’ve gone through is as ignorant as someone who’s never been in a combat zone telling me they understand what it’s like to go to war.”
Both Kaepernick and Boyer met after the open letter, but before Kaepernick’s first knee. According to www.snopes.com, “Boyer posted a photograph of himself with Kaepernick following the meeting, and later said: ‘We sorta came to a middle ground where he would take a knee alongside his teammate. Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect. When we’re on a patrol, you know, and we go into a security halt, we take a knee and we pull security.’”
CBS published a story about it as well titled “Here’s how Nate Boyer got Colin Kaepernick to go from sitting to kneeling.” Kaepernick spoke to reporters about the protest as well, he stated then, “I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone. That’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain up … I’ve seen videos, I’ve seen circumstance where men and women that have been in the military have come back and been treated unjustly by the country they have fought for, and have been murdered by the country they fought for, on our land. That’s not right.
“There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police. So that’s a large part of it and they’re government officials … There’s things we can do to hold them more accountable. Make those standards higher. You have people that practice law and are lawyers and go to school for eight years, but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist. That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protects us.”
So … there’s that. Not a single statement from him (nor any other players, if I’m not mistaken) about disrespecting the flag or the men and women, dead or alive, who fought for our country and our rights.
Where did the outrage come from this time? It came from our own president at a campaign rally in Huntsville, Ala. Trump stated, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out, you’re fired!’”
Look … You have every right to voice your concerns and opinions, just like the rest of us. There is a huge difference here, however. Calls for peaceful protests have been made over and over again. People have been upset about any kind of rioting or violence in some protests (not all protests are violent, after all). “There’s a time and place to protest,” is the argument. When and where is the right time and place?
The double standards is exactly what Kaepernick and other kneelers are trying to point out, specifically with law enforcement and police brutality. Yet no matter what the black community does, they can’t win. After calling for peaceful protests, it happens and still people are upset. “You shouldn’t protest at work,” yet Kim Davis, the Rowan County Clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses (who the Supreme Court ruled against), is painted as this conservative hero for protesting at work.
Even so, our state is unaffected by the problem of police brutality (at least in relation to deadly force). A database of police shootings is available from the Washington Post (search “police brutality statistics”). Out of the 737 people shot and killed by police in 2017, not a single case occurred in Nebraska (or Wyoming). “The effort began because data compiled by the federal government was unreliable and incomplete,” stated Washington Post.
Buzzfeed’s Albert Samaha’s “Blue Lies Matter,” which showed 62 incidents caught on video showing how cops are incentivized to lie in their reports.
Regardless of what side you’re on, we can’t ignore the very real problem of police brutality. Just because it isn’t a problem for us; it doesn’t mean that it isn’t a problem. Those problems need to be discussed, just as we’re doing now.