Take a knee, get the boot

Professional athletes are causing a ruckus and, in doing so, they are setting a poor example for the millions of young people who look up to them and often emulate their actions. And, they are, by virtue of their stance, deepening the wedge that is dividing a country whose people too often have a bend toward following the crowd rather than thinking for themselves.

The latest fire storm is over NFL players who have opted to take a knee rather than stand for the national anthem, and our president’s Tweetfest aimed at inciting an already heady issue.

In this case, we applaud President Trump’s stand for patriotism even as we take strong issue with his continued use of vulgar language not befitting the leader of our country.

But the issue at hand today is the athletes and their lack of respect for the national anthem.

We do not support their actions, and we believe owners can and should do something to ensure that the public display of disrespect ends.

While players have a right to their opinions and a right to voice those opinions in any way they like, those rights do not supersede the rights of their employers to demand a certain behavior from them when they are wearing the uniforms of the teams which pay them handsome salaries week after week.

What a player does outside of his job is his own business; but when he walks the sidelines as a New England Patriot, Washington Redskin, Carolina Panther or San Francisco 49er, he is representing the team and its stance. And American teams being paid with American dollars and being watched and supported by a vast majority of Americans should give due respect to this country, standing for the national anthem and by virtue of that action paying homage to the flag, what it stands for and the hundreds of thousands who have fought so that it might wave.

We understand that it’s a slippery slope when one begins debating freedom of speech, which we wholeheartedly support. And we understand that freedom of speech swings both ways. We can’t demand it when it suits our needs and then condemn it when the use of it ruffles our feathers.

That’s why when we see individuals burning flags we are disgusted but still support a person’s right to do so, just as we detest people who march for hate yet believe they have as much right to raise their voice for it as we do to call for love and peace. It is that which makes this country great; it is that which separates us from Communist governments who don’t allow you to think or act on your own.

But an individual right is different in our estimation from what is happening on playing fields across our country, where player conduct can be regulated by franchise owners.

Owners aren’t rising to the challenge, though. Instead they are siding with athletes, mostly, we believe, because the president threw down a gauntlet of sorts.

But Trump’s Tweetfest aside, owners have a responsibility to the fans who support their teams and to the country which has made football and just about every other sport one can think about a multi-billion dollar business. And players do, too.

What’s more, as we noted early on, players have a responsibility to the millions of young people who look up to them as heroes.

Heroes don’t get puffed up, have pity parties and shun America; they fight for it, and stand for it, at every turn. Heroes aren’t self-centered egotists who stomp their feet to get their way; they work for the good of all.

Heroes are not athletes who take a knee when the national anthem is played. They respect their country and show the world that respect. And, if they have issues with problems in this country, they speak up about it on their own rather than hide behind the teams they represent.

If they take a knee during our national anthem they need to get the boot.