Readers weigh in on the anthem debate
A lot of readers felt strongly about a column I wrote earlier this week, praising athletes’ protests during the national anthem, but saying it’s time to move on to bigger and more meaningful work in the name of their causes.
A brief sampling:
Richard in Valrico writes:
… Fans do not go to sporting events for their political value. The alt lefties behind this nonsense do not care about sports at all. It is all based upon the big lie of mass deaths at the hands of the police, starting in Ferguson, Mo. All they care about is destroying America. They despise football because it embodies very hard work, dedication and self-sacrifice.
Unfortunately, you in the press have become great enablers of this misdirected movement. The players have many avenues to voice their displeasure with society, but disrespecting the flag and for what it stands is the wrong time and place. The NFL allowed themselves to be sucked into this fray and alienated part of their fan base.
Your solution is fine, but equally ludicrous. So, they should abandon their disrespect to the flag so they can get back at VP Pence? I truly don't care why they stop, but they should do so out of respect for those who have truly made sacrifices for our liberty.
Brian from Cleveland, Ga., writes:
So, I guess the anti-war protests of the 60's and 70's should have ended once they made their point? I guess Martin Luther King Jr. should have become mute after he "made his point”? All the civil rights gained in the last ten years have been gained because the people of this country have persisted, not given in to the premise that they have "made their point" These protests may be a distraction from the games, but these games are supposed to be a distraction from the daily grind. Which is more important, that a bunch of billionaires can force a bunch of millionaires to abandon free expression, or that that order is maintained at our version of the Roman games. You should be ashamed of yourself!
Interesting article this morning. I agree with the premise of your article, and glad to see someone from the media finally saying “enough”, but I do take exception to a few of your comments. First, why is the NFL players’ unpatriotic antics considered a protest, but Pence’s action of defiance considered a “stunt”? Secondly, if it’s who paid for “stunt" that seems to bother you, “pay for it on your own dime,” why doesn’t that same logic apply to player protests when taxpayers subsidize billions to the NFL through stadium renovation/building. And lastly, I know you must make demeaning Trump comments with lines like “our athletes simply need to be bigger than our leaders”, to satisfy your bias bosses at St. Pete Times, but that comment undermined the message of your article. You infer that the protests worked. I would suggest to you that the protests have done nothing more than stoked the flames of racism, infuriated the fans, underlined the incompetence of the NFL commissioner and ultimately will negatively impact the bottom line of the NFL and its sponsors. Why not go one step further and call the nature of the protest valid (if that’s what you truly believe), but also call the target of the anthem and flag an action of disrespect that showed their ass and started the decline of the NFL.
Fred from St. Petersburg Beach writes:
Sorry, you got it all wrong. We know Pence, former governor and Colts fan. He came to honor Peyton Manning. Pence and his wife had a son who graduated from the military academy. This son fought in a war to protect these players and their family, plus our flag. May he Rest in Peace.
Don from St. Petersburg Beach writes:
Way to show your true colors. What happened to every American's right to free speech? There is a job awaiting you in the White House on Stephen Miller's staff.
As a lifelong Republican and Vietnam veteran, I believe you and others are intentionally obfuscating the issue in a mean spirited and divisive manner.
BTW, would be interested in learning about your military service and how it qualifies you to judge whether most veterans feel disrespected, or just the minority who are hard line Trump supporters who would stand in the middle of Route 275 during rush hour if The Don tweeted that that is what they should do.
Bill from Tampa writes:
I, too, do not understand how the player protest during the national anthem became a protest the flag or the armed forces. I understood it to be a protest on what is prejudice against minorities, especially African-Americans, by the police force. Indeed, I believe many of our armed service members believe they are fighting for the right to protest and freedom of speech. However, the point has been made, and I think you are right in stating that further protest may be misunderstood as protesting the administration and other entities such as our military. An attitude of "purpose greater than self" needs to be adopted.
Robert in Holiday writes:
It would really help all this go away if the protests did not get so much press. The press just seems to want to keep stirring the pot to advance these liberal ideas. Why does the press keep making a story out of this? It supposed to be a sports section. If you want to put an opinion piece in the paper, put it in the opinion section.
These continued protests are doing more to divide the country than bring it together to discuss the issues. If these players want to start a discussion why don't they hold public forums with the police chiefs or at least have one on one with the chiefs. Has Kaepernick or Brown done anything like this? Probably not, they are just highly paid athletes or former athletes try to get attention draw to them and the press is right there with them. They are not drawing attention to their issues, but creating divides. The only point they proved is that they are highly paid athletes that think fans care what they think about politics. We don't!
I go to games to be entertained, not to see protests. My only option is to stay away until the protests stop, which I will do. Yes, they have first amendment rights to speak out and protest, but they are working will on the field or at the rink. Others can't protest while working, but somehow these guys get a pass from the press.
Bring in the cost of Pence's trip weakens your article unless the article is about the high cost of government travel. I don't agree with the cost of the trip either, but this article is not the place for that discussion. If you do bring that up, please bring up the costs of Obama's vacation which cost all of us millions.
What do you think the anthem is about? Read the last line O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave. It is about patriotism and our soldiers who fought and died for our freedom. It was written after a battle so put it in the context of when it was written.
It was not written about inequality or police brutality. There is a time for that discussion, but it is not at a sporting event.
Jack from Temple Terrace writes:
These protests are a direct extension of the original civil rights movement.
Should Dr. King have stopped that movement when it got uncomfortable for people like you?
This struggle will continue.
Black Lives Matter way more than professional sports.
Joe from St. Petersburg writes:
They are supposedly protesting police brutality but isn't it really brutality of the police? Of the eight or nine police officers that have been brutally murdered in the Tampa Bay area in recent years, can you name one that was murdered by a white person? How about the Temple Terrace officer that was shot at this week during a traffic stop? Is it any wonder police officers don't give certain people the benefit of the doubt? If they do they might wind up like the victims of Dontae Morris! If they want to protest brutality why don't they protest the murders of over 500+ people, mostly African American, in Chicago. Just a bunch of hypocrites!
Robert from Tampa writes:
As an old African-American sports fan, I usually have a knee-jerk reaction to any argument against protests from anyone who has not been on the front lines of protests. During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, some people were satisfied with the status quo and others claimed that they were in favor of the protesters but disagreed with their methods.
My take has always been that anyone who is not part of the solution is part of the problem. That might apply to people like Mike Ditka, who apparently hasn't seen any problems worth addressing for the past 100 years, even though he lives in a city that has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to families of victims of police brutality.
Having said all that, I think you make a good point about ending the protests and taking them to a different stage with different actions. My only concern is that we run the risk of the loudmouth in the White House to become emboldened to continue his tactics of division.
Many fans may fall for the argument that pro athletes are rich people who should be grateful for the opportunities they have been given. But after naming LeBron James and Michael Jordan and other easily recognizable athletes, there are many more, not so famous, like James Blake and J.T. Brown, who are susceptible to mistreatment at the hands of police officers just like any other average black man. They deserve their forum to be heard, and that's where the president's remarks can be so harmful.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receivers Mike Evans (13) and DeSean Jackson (11) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017.