May 26, 2019 | 78° F

SURIANO: NFL protest is driving unneeded wedge between Americans

Opinions Column: A RINO's view


There is a chill in the air, leaves are beginning to fall and school is back in session. You know what that means — instead of enjoying football, each political tribe in the country must mount the proverbial barricades to argue about the flag, national anthem, police brutality and the relative skill of Colin Kaepernick. Any hope of this dismal state of affairs subsiding were dashed when Nike tapped Kaepernick to be its new spokesman, which reignited the kneeling debate. This yearly carnival of controversy is extremely distasteful and damaging to the nation. Our common flag and anthem should bind the nation together, and those who use them to create a political wedge are objectionable. No party in this comes away looking good — not Kaepernick, not President Donald J. Trump, not people on either side of the debate, not the NFL.

The person who should feel the most ashamed out of this is Trump. Last fall, he, the leader of the free world, deemed it necessary to run head long into the dying controversy. He said players who kneeled for the anthem should be suspended and the NFL boycotted. The controversy was dying out, Kaepernick was out of the league — and likely not coming back — and people were ready for football to return to normal. That was not possible after the president personally got involved, morphing the controversy from one about police brutality and the flag to one about freedom of speech. The president of the United States should not be involved in a private company’s business decision and he certainly should not be trying to stifle free speech. Now some may say he did not use any government power, so this is not a First Amendment issue, and they would be right. There is a difference, though, between the First Amendment and free speech culture. Threats to free speech culture are no less dangerous to freedom than direct government intervention. Worse than what the president did was why he did it. It was not out of love for the country but for political gain. Kneeling remains unpopular and Trump was trying to rally support for political gain. He in essence was wrapping himself in the flag and saying, “If you love the flag, then love me too." This is distasteful — the president should rally everyone around these common symbols, not just his base. The flag and the anthem are symbols that should be universal not just for one party or another. By lowering these cherished national symbols to mere politics, he sullied them and should feel ashamed for it.

Now, you might be thinking since I was so critical of the president that I am a Kaepernick fan, but this is not the case. Although, since he is a private citizen utilizing his God-given right to free speech, any of his transgressions are far less serious than Trump's. I think his cause is just. Any government abuse should be stamped out even if it is by the police, but his methods and other political actions are so misguided he does a disservice to his cause. For example, he wore socks depicting police as pigs, which does nothing but anger and dehumanize law enforcement. To solve our crime problem and police brutality, we need dialogue not insults. Perhaps worse yet, he wore a shirt depicting Fidel Castro. Castro was an evil man who brutalized his citizens, including his LBGTQ+ citizens who he put in concentration camps, and was generally an enemy to freedom-loving people. To honor such a man shows either a massive error in judgment or shows that Kaepernick does not actually care about the cause he claims to champion. But in a larger sense I think his protest and the larger kneeling protest are misguided. Now, I am just an upper middle class white kid from the suburbs, so some may reject my opinions on how Black people should deal with injustice, but all I can do is offer my humble opinion. It is up to you, the readers, to take heed of it, or not to. Traditionally, civil rights campaigns have worked most successfully by pointing out the greatness of America, but then pointing out that some were being excluded from the warming fire of American freedom. They wanted "in the club" as it were. But kneeling for the flag is rejecting the greatness of America, and by doing so, they turn off a great deal of people who one would need on their side if they wanted to effect change. Americans love their country and will rapidly change their ways if they are convinced of their errors. For example, see how rapidly opinions changed on gay marriage. If Kaepernick truly wants to see a change in this world, I would suggest he ironically take a play from Trump’s book and wrap himself in the flag.

Robert Suriano is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in history. His column, "A RINO's View," runs on alternate Mondays.


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Robert Suriano

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