By Matt Funicello, USMC
Everyone and their uncle has put their two cents in about this NFL situation, so I figured I’d put mine in as well.
I am a Marine Combat Veteran. I have served my country and made significant sacrifices for it, of which I would offer again in a heartbeat.
That being said, my opinion is twofold:
1) These players have every right to do what they are doing, so long as their employers allow them to.
2) I think it is EXTREMELY disrespectful and distasteful, as well as misguided in their reasoning for doing so.
My reasoning is this, the owners of their teams, with the exception of a very few, have said they would let their players do what they want. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the same to the league in its entirety as well. This is where I have a problem.
Professional sports, since its inception, has overwhelmingly kept politics and social issues out of the game. I was born in 1981, so I can’t say for certain that these protests or the like never happened back in the 60’s or 70’s for example, but I can speak from my experience and I have never seen this behavior happen before. I know of the 1968 Olympics, where Gold medalist Tommie Smith and Bronze medalist John Carlos raised their clenched fists in the “black power” salute during the National Anthem. However, these incidents or protests were few and far between before President Trump or former President Obama. Now I don’t mean to place blame or direct this rant at the current or former POTUS, I mention them to present a timeline.
Professional sports have changed for the worse. It used to be the place where families could go, whether watching at home or in person, and watch professionals perform their craft without injecting politics or social issues into it.Sunday’s for example was a day where we could relax in front of a TV and watch a football game without having to see someone or entire teams take a knee or anything else for a political or social issue. The political left lost their minds when Tim Tebow took a knee, not in protest, but in reverence to his God. He was vilified and some say he lost his NFL career because of his religious beliefs. When people saw him do that and people asked why he was doing that, all we had to say was, “he was praying.”
Now we watch NFL football and we are met with players kneeling to protest our flag, anthem, president, country, etc. We see players and teams raising their clenched fists in the traditional “black power” salute during the game and or whenever they see a camera on them. We see the NFL taking a public stand that allows their players and employees to publicly display this behavior, but in the same breath, decides to fine anyone that slaps a Thin Blue Line Flag, military branch insignias, 9-11 remembrance pictures, or other things on their uniform without paying a heavy fine.
Instead we are watching these players being forced to wear pink on certain parts of their uniform for Breast Cancer awareness month, or military branch insignias and camouflage on their uniforms for military appreciation month, or some other social issue. I think all forms of cancer are important, I want money spent to cure all forms of cancer, not just one. As I said before, I’m a former Marine and think Veterans issues are vitally important, but I don’t think it should be relegated to just one month.
Like it or not, these people are looked at as public figures that set an example for our youth. Whether you’re a coach or a player, people look up to them for guidance and aspiration. We as families used to answer our kid’s questions of, “Daddy, why do we stand for the national anthem and place our hands over our hearts?” Now we have to answer the question of “Daddy, why are they kneeling or raising their fists?” We teach our children and our citizenry to be respectful and never to disrespect something or someone because we do not like what they are or do, or what they have done in the past. We used to have the athletes show us an example of that, a reinforcement of our teachings, if you will. No longer.
Goodell and the team owners that allow this behavior to continue and fester are hypocrites and cowards. They say you can’t say or do one thing, but let them do others. It’s all or nothing. You let them wear socks with cops portrayed as pigs during a game, but god forbid if a player wants to put a 9-11 memorial logo on his cleats. I support freedom of speech and expression, but I do not support the picking and choosing of it when you deem it appropriate.
We live in the greatest nation on the face of this Earth. What we have in this country as citizens, no other country has. We have some of the greatest freedoms known to man, yet we take them for granted. Is our country perfect? No, absolutely not. Have we made mistakes as a nation? Absolutely we have. But we have learned from those mistakes and continue to learn from them as we keep making them. That is what we call humanity. But to say that we are the greatest country on earth and disrespect it in front of the world, is hypocritical and cowardly.
I for one will continue to watch football. I am a loyal Giants fan and I remain quiet and pay my respects even at home in my living room when they play our Anthem. When in public, I proudly stand at attention and render honors as appropriate when it is played. I cringe and wince when I see anyone not doing the same. The sacrifices my Brothers and I made will never be taken away from us, nor will I stand idly by and let others disrespect them without having something to say about it.
These are my two cents.