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I Would Like To Be Decent
Let me begin with a clear statement:
“I’m going to give you the real deal: I’m an American, I don’t desecrate my flag and my national anthem. I’m not gonna do anything against the flag and national anthem. I’m going to work within those situations, but this is my country, and I’ll work out the problems, but I’ll do it in an intelligent manner.”
You have an agree/disagree response to this statement. I have proffered this statement earlier this week and been told several times that it’s everything from “boorish” to “exclusively white privilege”.
The interesting thing is, it’s not my statement. It’s from NFL Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown.
Our culture is so divided now that several African American men have been deemed “not really black”.
Anyone with a semi-functional use of Google can suss out Jim Brown’s bona fides as a man who knows the Civil Rights struggle in America.
But even his life-long, first hand experiences are being deemed cheap currency by some in our culture.
The Great, Impossible Divide
The greatest difficulty I (and many of my friends and peers, race or color an irrelevant factor) have is finding a unified voice in what these protests are about. I’ve heard everything from a stolen Presidential election, police brutality, racism among law enforcement, illegal and immoral ongoing wars in foreign lands and even the blanket statement ‘racism’.
The originator of the NFL protests, Colin Kaepernick, made clear his protest motivation:
“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.”
It’s a clear and concise statement. It is in dramatic conflict with other declarations he’s made in public appearances regarding historic civil rights figures like Malcolm X and Fidel Castro. Those men are prominent figures in global civil rights for varied reasons.
Most recently, the anthem protest issue has become clouded with many voices protesting many different issues via the anthem protests.
Surveys have shown that the protests have sown immense disunity among followers of the NFL. Favorable views of the NFL amid the protests have fallen by half in one recent survey.
Since 2001, the NFL has made a specific marketing and strategic earning plan based on exploiting a sense of grief, alliance and patriotism in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the subsequent declaration(s) of war. The United States suffered horrific civilian loss on 9/11/01 and in the intervening 16 years, grievous loss of military personnel in wartime.
The NFL has profiteered from the war, a perceived surge in patriotism and exploiting the plain sympathy most decent people experience when we see some family experience loss of a loved one during war time.
We’re empathetically driven to celebrate when we see loved ones restored following a tour of duty for graduations, births and birthdays. The NFL (and other entertainment agencies) have manipulated the public’s empathy and sympathy. The NFL has repeatedly brought our Gold Star families, organizations that bring services to wounded vets, and a cavalcade of those who have suffered over what has become an interminable war with what seems no end in sight.
I believe the NFL is guilty of crass exploitation of those who have suffered loss during the last 16 years.
I recognize the crass exploitation by the NFL (and others), but I refuse to further cheapen the loss and suffering by stacking more crass exploitation upon these families by nodding approval or participation in a protest.
As a pastor, I’ve officiated and assisted at many funerals. I’ve officiated a funeral of one family member who died of AIDS related illness. I did not lecture on the dangers and physical consequences of my family member’s ‘alternative lifestyle’. That would have been monstrous. I assisted in a funeral for a woman who was killed drunk driving. I did not lecture her children or family on the dangers of alcohol abuse. That would have been appalling.
Is it true that drunk driving claims lives? Yes. Is it true that decades of casual sex may result in death and disease? Yes.
But the people there were invited as a memorial, remembrance and an offer of hope and comfort through the comfort of shared humanity and even words of hope from God Himself.
Gold star families are invited to these games. It is very likely an exploitive act by the NFL. Certainly, Disneyland benefits from the positive “marketing” of hosting “Make A Wish” Foundation recipients. How ghoulish would it be to go to some child at Disneyland who “Made a Wish” and attended Disneyland with his or her family and say “This is all corporatism; you don’t really matter, this is all a money grab by Disney. You’re going to die just like all the other Make A Wish kids have died and you will not be remembered.”?
There are countless commercial breaks during a football game. Literally hours of programming time to make a commercial that reaches out to every viewer at home and make an appeal to bring about any kind of change in all of society. Those commercial breaks allow for the undivided attention of the entire stadium audience. There is a lengthy halftime that also allows for commercials and in-stadium promos.
The average NFL game lasts over three hours.
The game (in theory) consists of 4 – fifteen minutes quarters and 1 – fifteen minute halftime, officially. That’s an hour and fifteen minutes of runtime. Commercialization expands that game time by nearly two full hours.
There is ample time to inform the viewing audience at home and in-stadium of any (most?) social ills occurring in our country. There is opportunity to inform, fund-raise, protest. Two hours of commercial time is longer than the average feature film. Entire wars and revolutions have been distilled into two hour movies.
The national anthem lasts around 2 minutes, 20 seconds. In comparison to the entirety of the game, it is barely a commercial break. It is a fleeting glance of time.
That seems a very short window to show simple decency to invited guests who have suffered loss in service of our country. There are literally hours at the disposal of any player(s) or spokespersons to make any declaration their conscience demands and all their creativity allows.
I am unclear on what is being protested. So are the protestors and the viewing audience. My conscience is clearly telling me what to do with 2 minutes of decency.