All of the anger over the NFL players’ protesting the National Anthem brings to mind an incident that occurred probably twelve or thirteen years ago. I was a middle school teacher and the sponsor of the Student Council. Each week, our SCA officers would take turns to start the school day over the intercom. They would start the pledge, call for a moment of silence and then read any pertinent announcements. That year, my President, was not allowed to stand or say the pledge. It was against his religion to pledge allegiance to anything other than God. He would start the pledge and then stay kneeled with his head bowed. I was approached by our beloved school secretary about it. She was upset by this. Her son was in Afghanistan at the time, fighting for our country and needless to say, I could understand her offense. “Is he being disrespectful? Making noise? Distracting others?” “No. He kneels and is quiet,” she said. “I can’t say anything to him. This is his Constitutional right to choose NOT to stand. This is a Supreme Court issue.” “I know,” she said. And it’s my right to tell you that I don’t like it one bit.” Yes. It is.
Do I agree with the players for not standing? No. I’ve always been fairly strict with my own children in keeping quiet (I was always perturbed at high school games at the number of kids who talk and cut up) and respectful during the playing of the anthem. But it is their Constitutional right to choose not to stand just as it is others’ rights to decry their actions. It is our right to NOT purchase their football jersey or to wear the shoes they are getting millions of dollars to promote. We absolutely don’t want to live in a country that doesn’t allow this freedom.
And that’s the beautiful paradox of this whole hoopla. Those players’ right to not stand were paid for by the sacrifices of our soldiers since 1776. Those players remain protected by the very police they are protesting. It reminds me of the grace that my pastor was speaking of just yesterday. Although I’m sure you’d find some military and police who might turn their backs on these players, for the most part, the majority of our police and military would still stand in the face of danger and remain resolute in their commitment to serve and protect- Even these guys who drive cars that cost more than most houses.
Perhaps instead of becoming angry tonight during Monday night football, whisper a prayer of gratitude for our beautiful country: one that offers freedom and grace, even to those you feel don’t deserve it.