The firestorm that has broken out between President Trump and the National Football League (NFL) over our nation's flag and the national anthem only proves one thing: Two wrongs don't make a right. How can both sides be so wrong?
Last season, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started it by taking a knee during the national anthem as his way of protesting for the Black Lives Matter movement. He claimed our flag was a symbol of oppression to him, in utter ignorance of the fact that men and women have fought and died for that flag so he could exercise his freedom of speech.
Should we like what he did? No. Was it an inappropriate act of disrespect? Absolutely. But should we defend his right to do what he did as free speech, despite not liking what he did? Of course.
Then Donald Trump had to jump into the fray by calling NFL protesters "SOBs" and asking the NFL to fire them for disrespecting our flag. Whole teams took a knee or stood arm-in-arm during recent games to protest Trump's remarks. Trump had to be hoping that his comments would stir support for our flag and what it represents. But Trump threw even more gas on that fire while tarnishing his presidency and revealing his limited understanding of our Constitution.
Then enter Pittsburg Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who condemned the one member of his team—a decorated Army veteran—who exercised his right to free speech by standing up with his hand over his heart to honor the flag. That team member served three tours of duty in Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star for bravery, so that we could enjoy the right of free speech. If anything, Tomlin's rant was worse than Trump's.
So where do we find ourselves now? Trump's incendiary comments and the stridence of his detractors have suddenly made the flag a symbol of resistance to Trump rather than a symbol of honor for our great nation. Have we lost our way? It seems so.
Instead of wasting time and energy on demonstrations and riots, it's high time these movements seize the opportunity to join together with the NFL, as well as law enforcement and our nation's leaders, to do something positive in combating the violence on the streets of Chicago and other high black-on-black crime cities like Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis, or Dallas. Constantly protesting is nothing more than a quest for notoriety. Doing something constructive and humble to actually solve the problem is the nobler cause.
If we set our minds to make such things happen to soothe these roiling waters, perhaps then we can bring about racial equality and social justice.
T. Keith Gurnee