As a child, I watched and played all kinds of sports. I was a pretty good athlete in baseball and football, but like a bull in a China shop in basketball! There isn’t much use for a kid built like a fireplug, who can’t shoot, has no great speed,and can only rebound in basketball. No matter the sport though, I always stood for the National Anthem. Watching sports on television was also the same, the National Anthem was played, men and women stood, men took off their hats, put them over their hearts, and applauded at the end. It seemed right to me, and I never questioned it. I loved my country, and I still do. Now, it seems some people seem to think the National Anthem is a symbol of some kind of oppression. I don’t get it, but they do. I now see athletes refusing to stand for the Anthem, and they are protesting this country by kneeling. I know this really ticks off a lot of Americans, and it has become a national debate on whether it is right or wrong. I have given this some thought ( yeah, I know, some of the stuff I write looks like a brainless dinosaur wrote it!) and I am going to try to explain why I have a problem with them kneeling, but defend their right to do it!
I am a firm believer in the Constitution. Most of you know I think the founding fathers, (especially Thomas Jefferson) were the smartest people this country has ever produced, still, to this day. I believe they were hand picked by God to come together and form this country. You cannot change my mind on this. With that being said, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution are 2 of the 3 greatest documents ever written, surpassed only by the Bible. All three are documents that all mankind should live by. If we did, the world would be a much better place. These brilliant men who all gathered together to debate and write these 2 documents put more thought in them than all legislation written since then. The first amendment in the Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free expression thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Brilliant words by brilliant men. At the time this was written, there were places where this was not allowed. Now, fast- forward to today. Because this was written and ratified 232 years ago does not make it outdated. These words are timeless. I believe them. “Freedom of speech” and the right to “peaceably assemble” means just that. It is a right to say what you think and to gather like minded folks and peaceably disagree with what goes on. You may say what you want, but that does not exempt you from the consequences of your words, nor actions. These athletes, whom I think are being disrespectful to a country that fought a war, gave its youngest men and women in battle, and died for these principles are wrong. Very wrong. However, they are expressing themselves the right way, by doing it of their own will, and so far, peaceably. They are demonstrating the greatness that is our country. They disagree with the norm, by taking a knee, they are doing so peaceably, and I can live with that. It is being done the right way. I don’t like it at all, but I have my opinion, just like they have theirs, and I don’t hate them for it. I will continue to watch Baseball, Football, (not basketball, I’m just not a fan of the NBA, but I like college though!). I appreciate their athletic abilities. I can live and let live.
Athletes are no smarter than the rest of us. We do not have to listen and obey their every word. They are not Gods. They are human, just like the rest of us. Therefore, they deserve every right that the rest of us have, and if that means protesting the flag, the National Anthem and the country, that is their right as long as it is done peaceably. You or I don’t have to like it, but continuing to allow them to do so is the most American thing we can do: allow our brothers and sisters to express themselves, even though we disagree. The founding fathers would be proud! That’s the way I see it from the sidelines.
Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27 year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner