Opinion: Sports should help unite, not divide us

Photo courtesy of si.com | New England Patriot players kneel and link arms during the national anthem in protest of recent statements made by President Donald Trump. In response to his statements, many teams across the the league also participated in similar acts of solidarity to support equality. Staff Writer Jack Dunn argues that this issue shouldn’t divide the country just because we disagree.

Over the weekend, President Donald Trump made several controversial comments regarding the players who have protested during the national anthem before NFL games. Those comments were met with strong reactions from NFL players who participated in the protests.

The reactions stem from Trump’s comments at an Alabama rally, where he called players who protested “SOBs” suggesting that they should be fired and released by their teams. He then called for a boycott of NFL games, saying “Even if it’s just one player, get up and leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop.”

The overall reaction around the league was large numbers of players protesting during the national anthem. It started in London, where the Ravens-Jaguars game saw more than 20 on-field personnel kneel, including Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, who locked arms with players and coaches and Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis. The reigning Super Bowl Champions, the New England Patriots, saw 17 players kneel while others linked arms. Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s comments. The Steelers, Titans and Seahawks did not come out of the locker room for the anthem, although Steeler lineman Alejandro Villanueva stood at the front of the tunnel during the anthem.

Sports should never be used to divide people. They can be used as a means to accomplish great things. Countless athletes devote many hours of their time doing charitable work. This is even apparent in recent memory, with Houston defensive end J.J. Watt’s social media campaign to help benefit the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Many of the anthem protestors do similar things each year. Does this mean they are worthy of the comments that were made by the president? No.

This doesn’t mean that every NFL player is an angel. They are human beings just like the rest of us and plenty of them make mistakes. But these protests do beg the question that was once asked by the philosopher Aristotle: “What is the difference between being a good citizen, and being a good person?”

One would like to think that in the democracy we live in, it is possible to do both. However, it appears that everyone, including players, owners and fans are forcing themselves to choose to be one or the other. Some believe that they must choose to be a good person by taking a knee. Others see that they are citizens first, and regardless of whether you agree with the reason for protest, you must respect your country above all.

It doesn’t need to be that way. The players are being good citizens by protesting in a peaceful way. Those who stand for the anthem are also good people because of their love for country. So why do we force ourselves to pretend that we are on different sides?

If it were me on that field, I don’t think I would kneel. My grandfather was a Marine who fought at Iwo Jima, so I feel that I would stand. That doesn’t mean that I “hate” those who do. I respect them for it. That is what this country is all about. What other country would allow people to peacefully protest for as long as they have?

I think that in the flurry of tweets made by Trump, strong reactions of players and 24-hour media coverage, it is easy to forget the simple reasons that make this country so amazing.

We all must remember in such fast time to slow down and appreciate the great things that unify this country rather than focus on the things that drive us apart.

By: Jack Dunn ~Staff Writer~