Guest column: 'Stunned' that NFL players think kneeling DURING anthem an appropriate, effective protest

Thursday, 12 October 2017, 12:56:45 PM. I don't blame Vice President Mike Pence for walking out of Sunday's NFL football game when he saw players kneeling during the national anthem. Good for him.

I don't blame Vice President Mike Pence for walking out of Sunday's NFL football game when he saw players kneeling during the national anthem. Good for him.

When Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem last year, it nearly took the eyebrows off my face. I also couldn’t believe those distasteful socks he wore during practice, the ones that depicted police officers as pigs.

The 49ers quarterback explained his protest this way: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Are you kidding me? Kneeling in protest DURING the national anthem? The NFL’s game operations manual clearly states: "During the National Anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking." And it doesn't stop there.

"The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition. It should be pointed out to players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspensions, and/or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses."

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So ... why didn't the 49ers put a stop to this the first time it happened? Don't try to tell me that white team owners don't have the right to tell black players what they can do and when they can do it. The NFL is a business, and employers can tell you to keep your political views and protests to yourself when you're clocked in. What if the Starbucks cashier wrote "No Guns" or "Choose life" on the cup holding your vanilla latte? 

It's no different for NFL players. When he donned that team jersey and walked on the field, Kaepernick was an employee on the company clock. Players are prohibited from doing all kinds of things on the field. For example, the Dallas Cowboys were not allowed to place stickers on their helmets last year as a tribute to five slain police officers. And players have been fined for modifying their eye black during games to honor parents who died of cancer.

Yet here we are, supposedly living in a "post-racial" America, and team owners are actually allowing players to kneel DURING the national anthem. I have watched this lunacy playing out for a year now, and I'm just stunned.

Letters: Players aren't guaranteed forum

Few issues have energized the public, both pro and con, more than the protest by NFL players…

Most fans stand because the flag means a lot to them. It represents America, the land they love. They know she has a checkered and painful past, but they also know how far she has come, and they love her deeply — warts and all.

If the coffin of your loved one was draped in a flag that was then reverently folded and presented to you before that coffin was lowered into the ground, Old Glory's meaning to you is indescribable. My family has one of those flags. I cannot imagine kneeling in protest during the anthem. Ever.

Who in their right mind would choose that particular time for a protest? How can the players not understand how offensive their actions are? And after slapping the fans in the face during such a solemn moment, how can the players possibly expect anyone to listen to — much less sympathize with — any kind of political message they’re trying to convey?

They have stepped in it with this one —  big time. I’ve seen the videos of heartbroken fans destroying their NFL gear. Everything from pennants, T-shirts, caps and jerseys to pricey bomber jackets and season tickets is literally going up in flames. Everyone has a right to protest. But if you choose the wrong time and place for your protest, you run the risk of offending the very people you had hoped to win to your side.

I’ve had debates about this with good friends and members of my own family who say the players have a right to say whatever they want whenever they want to. My response: Go pull that stunt on your job and see how far you get.

They also say President Donald Trump made things worse with his suggestion that the players be fired. I disagree. Trump merely voiced what millions of fans were already thinking.

Who wants any kind of politics shoved in their face at a sporting event?

There is a time and a place for everything, folks, and this ain’t it.

Eleanor Ransburg is a copy editor for The Advocate. Email her at

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