Black athletes making political statements during the National Anthem is far from new and started well before a mediocre quarterback took a knee. We are close to 50 years since Tommie Smith set a new world record and won gold at the Mexico City Olympics.
He was joined by bronze medalist John Carlos and both men took a medal podium stance filled with symbolism: Shoeless for the poor, an open jacket for blue collar workers, a scarf for black pride, a badge for human rights and a necklace for those lynched or tossed from the slave ships crossing from Africa. The iconic black-gloved fists in the air were not a Black Panther salute, but a human rights salute.
Both thought long about what they would do and its meaning. Both paid the price, learning that freedom of speech unfortunately has a cost. They were shunned by the athletic community.
Which brings us to a group of 8-year-old pee wee football players from Cahokia. You have to wonder how much they understand about the sacrifices made for their freedoms, or the costs associated with their statements. You hope for wisdom among the adults guiding them.
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You also wonder whether they understand the difference between a raised fist as you face the flag versus turning your back on it and kneeling when you are a little kid.
They have a right. We hope their parents are talking at length with them. We also hope they don’t see what social media has to say, because some of that free speech might keep them from ever respecting the right to speak out.
But most of the outrage on behalf of those who defended this country is a little misplaced. Just like with flag burning, the protest on bended knee is a freedom that people died to defend.
You’re free to withhold your kids from the team or your cash when they want donations for new uniforms. But if you want a country where everyone stands and salutes the flag, best plan a visit to Pyongyang.