Despite his best efforts, Donald Trump has united the NFL.
While the fans remain lost in baseless rhetoric chock-full of alternative facts promoted by the president, the owners and players are on somewhat-good terms for the first time since Roger Goodell became the league commissioner in 2007.
President Trump remarked on the players who were kneeling during the national anthem, calling them sons-of-bitches for taking a knee during the national anthem, a deeply personal and uncalled for attack on the peaceful protesters. In a series of tweets, Trump stated that any players who quietly kneel during the brief interlude should be fired, implying he knew how to run a team better than the owners.
Trump lives on social media and the critics of this weekend’s demonstrations worship the ground he walks on, fact based or not.
For critics of the NFL, its owners and its players, the act of kneeling during the anthem does not equate to being ungrateful or hating America. The players are the voice for those who are voiceless. They’re not saying that they themselves are oppressed, but that there are injustices happening in this country. It’s not difficult to comprehend if you listen.
San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid reiterated that, when he and Colin Kaepernick began kneeling a little over a year ago, their intention was to get their message across in the most respectful way achievable.
“After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel,” Reid wrote in an Op-Ed for the New York Times. “We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”
You don’t have to agree with them, but as fellow Americans, you owe it to them to give them basic human respect and listen to their message. No, they aren’t disrespecting the veterans. Their intentions aren’t the least bit malicious. They want their message heard and you’re too worried about being offended.
To the detractors, you’ve had your turn to speak, and now it’s time to listen to the demonstrators. To accuse them of being unpatriotic for a peaceful protest is palpable jingoism.
The fact that people would rather boost their online egos by posting Von Miller jersey-burning videos for viral attention rather than act like mature, decent human beings and have a productive, thoughtful conversation on an important issue not only is disgusting, but pitiful.
We are Americans and whether we like it or not, we’re stuck with each other. Would you rather live in sharp political division or be able to go one day without getting upset at someone because you don’t agree with them?
Finally, to the players and demonstrators. Please, don’t get discouraged from the backlash. You are making change and America needs you. John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s decision to raise their fists at the 1968 Summer Olympics was met with fierce criticism. They were on the right side of history and so are you.
Whether the commander-in-chief chooses to believe that in his bubble of 140 characters or less is insignificant. Trump won’t change the racial divide for the better so it’s up to you, social leaders.