Did the Dallas Cowboys just steer us around the corner of the Great Kneel Debate?
Prior to tonight’s Monday Night Football game in Arizona, there was some speculation about whether any of the Cowboys would cross the wishes of owner Jerry Jones and take a knee during the National Anthem in support of the protest seeking equitable treatment for people of color.
If you missed it, the entire Dallas team – including coaches and the owner – lined up on the field prior to the anthem, linked arms and went to their knees in a show of solidarity. Then, they stood, arms still linked, for “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
They were booed and cheered. Social media praised them and accused them of backing down.
It strikes me as possible that their actions might be what we need to move forward on the topic and, more than anything, refocus on the genuine issue.
Colin Kaepernick’s original protest early in the 2016 season was against racial injustice and police brutality, notably the string of unarmed black men and women shot to death by law enforcement officers. He chose to not stand during the National Anthem to draw attention to the problem.
He certainly received a lot of attention, but it was seldom directed at the issues of racial oppression.
No, many decided to recast his protest as being against the American flag or the anthem. They said, for example, he was disrespecting veterans and the military, even though a long line of service members stated they defended free speech and that he should be heard.
But it’s much easier to call someone a traitor than it is to address real problems.
So that’s what has happened and it all came to a head last week when Donald Trump did what he does best and riled up his followers to the cry that football players should be fired for refusing to stand during the anthem, which was presented as disrespecting the flag, the anthem, our country, not as a plea for justice.
This is where I’m hoping the Dallas Cowboys will help our nation turn the corner.
How about them Cowboys?
While hearing about the dozens of players this weekend who joined the protest by taking a knee during the anthem, and many more who linked arms, and reading the hatred spewed toward them, I found myself thinking that we had to break this chain.
Maybe, I thought, Kaepernick (who’s currently not on a team) and some other influential players who are part of the protest could announce this week that it’s time to redirect the protest in an effort to finally focus on the message. They could easily cite this past weekend as a rousing success and a definite win over Trump’s hateful rhetoric, claim that it earned them some of the attention they need and … well, I’m not sure what, but they could take another approach, one less likely to stoke a nationalistic uproar.
Could it be that’s what the Cowboys accomplished?
Their collective knee stated that they were united in seeking justice for people of color and fighting the scourge of wrongful police killings.
Their collective stand for the anthem stated that, regardless of our nation’s problems, they think it’s worth working within our framework to find solutions. It pronounced a love of country.
It’s worth the effort to make our country one all of us are proud to call home.
So, can we move past trying to elevate peaceful protest to all-out rebellion? Can we take an honest look at how we treat each other?
Can we turn the corner and move forward?