The right to stand unified

When I saw the photograph of the Boston Celtics locking arms during their preseason opener against the Philadelphia 76ers, my very first words were, “I love it.” I said this to a co-worker, to whom I was standing next. I found it compelling to note how my Celtics fans friends who hate the current protests of the national anthem were going to respond.

I have no issues with the way anyone in the NFL is protesting either, to be quite honest. I do think that there are problems in America that need to be addressed and people need to be made aware that these problems do also occur in the upper levels of socio-economics as well as at the bottom.

That, Hamlet, I believe is the rub. Often the narrative was that “these guys have million dollar contracts” and that they should shut up and play football. “Oh, how oppressed these millionaires are,” the public opinion tended to slant. The money that these people have earned is not the issue. It was never the issue. People are tending to forget that these multi-millionaire athletes (a) don’t always become or stay multi-millionaires, but (b) many of them come from a place that didn’t start with a seven –or even a five — digit bank account. Yes, some of them live in mansions and in great neighborhoods, but the issues with the police? They still happen, despite their wealth. They happened before their wealth as well.

One of the major problems with our society is that we have this belief that our opinions are right. I’m guilty of this certitude, too. So if someone says, “Cops treat black people unfairly” and you don’t agree, then your stance is to talk about black-on-black violence or how blacks should stop committing crimes. That certitude gets us into trouble because it doesn’t open a dialogue in any direction. In most cases, you’ve made up your mind. One side can’t be convinced there are good cops (they don’t see many) and one side can’t be convinced cops can behave in a racist manner (they don’t experience it).

In the social media world, we’ve become a nation of memes that support our causes. We combat “black lives matter” with “all lives matter;” We share memes of Hitler to cry Trump; We hear a stat that is misleading (or simply untrue) and share it with others as our rebuttals. Moreover, we surround ourselves with only people who think like us.

I want to see more people take a knee during the national anthem. This isn’t an anti-American stand. To suggest protest is anti-American is to suggest the behavior being protested is American. We ask our athletes to be role models. We buy their shoes. We buy their jerseys. We wear apparel with their names on it. We ascribe a much greater meaning to what that person symbolizes for our team and our community. And so we share with pride when these men or woman show up at hospitals or run charity events. We laud these people for being more than just athletes. They’re people to whom we can look to not just for athletic successes, but as examples of good people.

What’s more of a role model than someone who is standing — or sitting, or kneeling — for his or her beliefs? We can’t denounce someone just because their beliefs don’t align with ours (like that psycho lady in Tennessee who is protesting her child learning about Islam in social studies class). I think that if Jim Brown or Muhammad Ali or Kareem Abdul Jabbar were playing in our present day culture, people would HATE them. The Trump people. The Facebook over sharers. The veterans. The grandmothers. But look at them now. They’re heroes. They’re icons. They’re best-selling authors.

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of sports is that they bring people of different backgrounds, skin colors, and faiths together. Often, we use this in the context of fans, right? Republicans high-fiving Democrats, a white fan offering condolences to a Middle Eastern fan after a loss. But maybe it should be best exemplified by showings like that of the Celtics this week: a group of men, brought up in different parts of the world, different skin colors, difference experiences, different relationships with the power structure in America, arm-in-arm, announcing that in unity there’s a step toward progress.

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