So while I am in New Zealand in vacation, I've seen a great deal of talk about the NFL, respect for the flag and kneeling.
I want to address that, but before I do I must add a disclaimer. First, I have always stood for the anthem for the flag of the United States.
My brother is in the U.S. Army and while I am nothing more than a journalist and historian, I will stand for that flag and provide what service I can to make this country "America the Beautiful" in reality.
With that out of the way, let me say I am disgusted there is some debate about this.
But wait, perhaps you you think I believe players are wrong to politicize the game and should stand?
Wrong. Politics has already poisoned much of the dialogue within the U.S.A., and if you believe politics wasn't a part of sports before, well it is now.
But while I do not condemn the kneelers, I do not seek to praise those who are standing. Let me explain.
G.K. Chesterton once said that having the right to do something is not same as "to be right in doing it." That is where this debate truly begins, do players have the right to kneel during this anthem?
In a word: yes.
Have we really sunk so low and so far that we are debating the limit of peaceful protest?
Who is harmed? No one.
Who is forced to participate or watch? No one.
I do not believe this act of kneeling during the anthem the best protest, so in that sense perhaps it is not the right or best thing to do.
But each player has the right to do it if they so choose.
We are a country, a nation, a people founded on the act of disagreement and protest.
Did not the Founding Fathers peacefully and with good intentions submit their grievances to the King of Great Britain?
Did Martin Luther King Jr. not work through marches and words to seek redress for the utter failure and lack of civil rights in this country?
And now come these men and women, who instead of standing upon the field, kneel in silence and call our attention to what they believe to be injustice within our country.
They have this right and let none abridge it. And here is another reason why. It's an old reason but a telling one.
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor."
Those words should burn in your mind because they are the parting sentence of the Declaration of Independence.
Those words were not just a pledge for the signers of the Declaration. Every American citizen is bound by that deathless vow.
That vow which bound bound a bunch of argumentative, flawed human beings together in what would one day become these 50 United States.
We are still a bunch of argumentative, flawed human beings and we are still bound together by oaths and promises and by a shared promise that is represented in that piece of star-spangled fabric which soars above our land.
Beneath that flag thousands have died for the millions of us at home.
But beneath that flag, thousands were killed in massacres and for "manifest destiny."
Beneath that flag have laid thousands of coffins carrying the best of our men and women home to rest forever in peace under the earth.
But beneath that flag government failed for decades to truly end segregation and to remember the common brotherhood/sisterhood all men and women have.
And finally, beneath that flag, dozens if not hundreds of athletes kneel for what their conscience demands even as hundreds more stand for what their own conscience demands.
Let us ignore for a moment the Flag code and the NFL regulations which say many things about how to respect the flag and this nation.
Let us look merely at the bonds that bind us to each and every person in this country.
Do these men and women have the right to kneel?
Yes. it has been bought in blood, sweat and tears.
Is it necessarily the best or right way to protest?
Perhaps not. Perhaps time might be better spent speaking and donating money.
But what is right and what someone has the right to do are very different things.
I will continue to stand when the flag is hoisted high above my head, but I shall not judge those who kneel.
Instead, I will listen. I will hear their words, their complaints and I will respond with respect and with empathy.
We're nation founded on disagreement, debate and argument conducted in a civil manner.
I'm sick to death of the hate though, ofthe contempt showered on both the right and the left.
The moment we engage in censorship and decide what free speech is allowed, we've already lost.
And I refuse to lose. I refuse to surrender to hate and extremists. My life, my fortune and my sacred honor are mine and mine alone.
I will stand, but I will be here to help you stand up from kneeling and build a bright, new future when you're ready.