After initially promising to “absolutely” kneel for the national anthem and fall in line with the weak yet wholly disrespectful gestures of social justice, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield reverses his decision and will stand before the Browns’ matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. Believing “kneeling will only create more division or discussion about the gesture, rather than be a solution towards our country’s problem at hand,” Mayfield also decided to stand for both anthems, the Star-Spangled Banner and the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
“My heart is even more passionate than it was months ago, due to the fact that we are not close to being where our country needs to be. I love this country, but these challenges and adversity are an opportunity for much needed change for issues that have been going on for far too long. It is going to come down to how we handle adversity and taking advantage of our opportunities.”
After witnessing Thursday’s moment of unity between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans during their game and the Miami Dolphins players’ video announcing their decision to remain in the locker room for both anthems, demanding action instead of meaningless tokens, Mayfield realized it is “not about who is standing or who is kneeling” but instead about “coming together and taking action to create real change.”
The Oklahoma product asserted his intention to kneel even at the expense of fans and told reporters in August that he believes, “There’s a human rights issue that has been going on for a long time, and I believe in that. It’s nothing against military or anybody who served. Anybody that knows my history knows that I completely support military and the people that serve our country for the right reasons and do it for justice. The people that do not know that, that’s OK — just take your time and take a second to get to know me. It’s a human rights issue. There is right and there is wrong.”
Since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick shook the NFL with his decision to kneel in 2016, attempting to convince us of the endemic and systemic racism within the American system despite significant counterevidence (including his own status), every season following has been faced with this empty drama. For the league, as a business, ratings tank with every hollow social justice nod because, as it turns out, people generally do not like being lectured with bumper stickers about change and racism when they merely tune in to enjoy their favorite sports team compete.
We must stop pretending kneeling does anything more than smear disrespect upon the men and women who laid their lives down to protect this incredible nation and the true and good principles that built the foundation of America. Though we possess the wonderful freedom of speech, kneeling for the anthem of the nation that grants us this right forfeits the freedom of speech, as we do not get to cherry pick liberties while denouncing the protector of those rights, a living oxymoron.
Standing for the anthem does not incite disrespect since we all call ourselves Americans, the ultimate unifier we need in such divisive times. If we cannot come to a basic level of understanding underneath American ideals, we will come apart at the seams. Justice can only be achieved once we realize the lofty ideals held within the Declaration of Independence. Standing for the anthem stands in recognition of such facts and breeds the unity we desperately need, underneath the flag and not dishonest social justice fads spurned by sensationalized stories.
Besides, in positions of such money and status, athletes do possess the wherewithal to foster genuine prosperity within inner city black communities yet would rather leave their impact at kneeling for the anthem, an egregious waste of potential. Above all else, it’s virtue signaling to the highest order. With billions in revenue, flashing “WE BELIEVE BLACK LIVES MATTER” on the jumbotron and performing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before Week One games and should be a slap to the face to patriots and those who expect the NFL to use their massive influence to direct serious change alike.
The Miami Dolphins nailed this in their aforementioned players’ videos, stating, “This attempt to unify only creates more divide. So we’ll skip this song and dance, and as a team we’ll stay inside. We need changed hearts, not just a response to pressure. Enough, no more fluff and empty gestures. We need owners with influence and pockets bigger than ours to call up officials and flex political power.”
Sports, as a sliver of the social fabric, has always wielded its influence with the intent to unify. Of course, as when fans of the sport don’t split between prickly and intense issues of politics, the leagues can roll in more revenue so remaining as uncontroversial as possible and bringing people together is in the league’s best interest. And, as a true universal good, America and patriotism has always been a safe bet for the league to bring people together under. But the relatively new phenomenon within sports, the disdain towards the flag and America as a whole, has only bred more division and turned more people on each other, negating a positive attribute of sports’ presence.
We must get back to pre-2016 sports. Before Kaepernick claimed America as “a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Before the flag became a symbol of oppression. Before sports became vessels of tepid progressive slogans. And Mayfield’s decision deserves applause as hopefully the first step back.