I was watching Monday Night Football when a remarkable thing happened. The entire team, including team owner (and Trump supporter) Jerry Jones, took a knee. But then they stood up -- every player, every coach, everyone -- and honored America with the playing of the National Anthem.
Still, they were loudly booed by many of those in attendance. And I don't understand why.
Again, everyone associated with the Dallas Cowboys stood respectfully while the National Anthem played. They are the only team in the league that can say that. But in the great spirit of American discourse, they found a way to compromise.
I was watching ESPN after the game, as team owner Jerry Jones explained how their demonstration came about. In a nutshell, Jerry Jones wanted to divorce the act of taking a knee from the National Anthem itself, from the honoring of America. In his view, the act of taking the knee before the Anthem (instead of during) would remove the controversy. He says the organization spent a couple of thoughtful days thinking about how they'd handle this, and that's what they came up with.
I think they got it right.
Let's go back to when Colin Kaepernick first started sitting out the National Anthem, and why. It was his attempt to draw attention to the institutional racism that (sadly) still exists in our country.
In my opinion, it was the wrong thing to do. And I mean a BIG mistake! I doubt Kaepernick understood what the flag of our country means to people -- to everyday Americans, and especially to those who bravely fought for the principles that our flag represents. And what it means to the family members of those service men and women. And make no mistake, the flag also represents the right to protest, even to sit for the National Anthem. But sitting out the Anthem was always going to divert attention from the very important cause Kaepernick was trying to address. And that's exactly what happened. He wanted people to talk about Black Lives Matter, and instead we started talking about the correct way to honor the flag. A few athletes joined him, notably US soccer star Meghan Rapinoe, but mostly he sat alone.
Then last week happened. Donald Trump said a player who sits for the National Anthem is a "son of a bitch." He suggested an NFL boycott and demanded teams fire their players if they don't stand. The Anthem protests, which had mostly gone away, suddenly morphed into the #TakeAKnee movement. Players, coaches, owners, and many Americans all felt their rights were being challenged by the man in the Oval Office -- and they fought back. Many players took a knee during the National Anthem, a couple of teams sat in the locker room in an effort to remove themselves from the controversy, while one player quietly came out of the tunnel to stand for the National Anthem with his teammates still inside. Later, in an act of contrition that was totally unnecessary, Alejandro Villanueva apologized for coming out alone without telling his teammates.
Overall, the mood was outrage, with many NFL fans threatening to tear up their tickets or burn their very expensive jerseys. And as with Kaepernick's protest, I can understand the outrage. To NOT stand for the National Anthem is to divert attention from the issue at hand. The Cowboys organization saw the problem and decided to honor both -- the right of Free Speech, and the flag which represents that right. After Jerry Jones explained his reasoning, ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt said that if you're still mad after that, still upset that the Cowboys took a knee -- again, NOT during the National Anthem -- then "...you're just going to be mad, and no conversation can take place..."
For what it's worth, the President appears to be claiming victory after the Cowboys stood for the National Anthem.