My Two Cents
October 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

The recent furor caused by NFL players, coaches and owners Sunday, protesting remarks made by our current president call to mind other times in our recent history as a country.

There was that time in 1964 when the talented and deeply admired Cassius Clay, newly crowned heavyweight boxing champion, converted to Islam, changed his name to Muhammed Ali, and on      religious grounds refused to register for the draft. Overnight this national hero fell from his pedestal. The same people who cheered him for making our country proud at the Olympics, reviled him as a traitor to our country long after he paid is debt to society for the laws he broke.

Then there was the time in 1968 that Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black gloved fists as they stood on the medal stand at the playing of the National Anthem. So many of us were      appalled by the disregard this act of protest seemed to suggest toward our country and our flag.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised when acts of protest make us angry. After all, that’s what they are designed to do- to get our attention and invite us to look again at the issues at hand. But, it seems that we are of two distinct minds when our beloved athletes protest. Instead of paying attention to the issues they are raising, we go quickly to personal attacks. We accuse the same people we’ve adored from the stands, whose autographs we’ve treasured, who are often pictured as giving back to their   community- of being entitled millionaires who have no idea what it means to sacrifice for their country. All evidence to the contrary, we seem to think that these acts of protests are lightly taken.

I wonder. Is our rush to judgment because the     athletes involved in the protests are overwhelmingly people of color? Is it because they have struck too close to home by suggesting that we really do have a problem of racism in this country? Is it     because we look at these individuals as entertainers and don’t appreciate reminders that underneath their pads, these young (mostly) men are unique individuals in their own right? Or is it really just because they’ve had the nerve to mess with the   National Anthem?

I don’t know. But consider this.

One thing we hear so often from teammates of all stripes is that in the heat of battle, the most important thing to one person is the wellbeing of the other. Whether the team is a precinct full of city cops, a squad of soldiers trying to take a hill in South Viet Nam, or the other guys on the offensive line, for good (and sometimes for ill) teams take care of each other. I wonder if at least part of what we saw last Sunday was the reaction of the very large and very public team ‘NFL’ to a surprise attack on one of their own.  “No matter what, we have your back.”

What do you think?

Shalom, Rick


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