As often as possible I try to tune out celebrities such as actors and athletes who try to tell me who to vote for, how I should donate to charity etc. Most of the time I’m not convinced celebrities care all that much about the causes in question, but rather engage in such things to get their faces on TV (Bono, Bruce Springsteen etc.).
That’s what turned me from being an NHL fan around 1994, as my first year in college was closing. You might remember the NHL strike/lockout that year. I remember watching defenseman Chris Pronger in a news conference saying NHL players weren’t going to be exploited anymore, and were going to fight for what they deserved. Meanwhile he was standing there in a $1,000 Italian suit and then got into a Lamborghini or limo and drove away.
Anyhoo, this entire “NFL players kneeling for the national anthem” has a similar pedigree. The gist of it is mostly black NFL players feel the United States doesn’t treat minorities as well as it treats white people, and furthermore many people feel police departments in the U.S. treat minorities differently, even criminally, as part of some totalitarian state.
Some of their positions are difficult to argue. Take for example the death of 12 year old Tamir Rice, who was shot to death by two police officers in Cleveland, Ohio Nov. 22, 2014. Rice was in a park with what amounted to a toy gun, and a security camera records a police cruiser screeching to a halt and one of the officers blowing Rice away before the cruiser even stopped moving. The security footage proved no attempt was made to communicate with Rice before he was killed. They just pulled up and blew him away. You can watch the video clip yourself on YouTube (type “Tamir Rice” in the search box). In my opinion, the police officers should have communicated in some way, “Drop the gun or we’ll shoot” etc. with the kid before blowing him away. But that’s just my opinion.
It’s also my opinion that kneeling during the national anthem in an attempt to say “The entire country is racist” is garbage. The simple fact that NFL players can speak their minds about Trump, the American government, police departments etc. proves this claim is wrong.
Do you know what would happen to these NFL players if they tried a protest or criticism in a foreign country?
In Lebanon, for example, the law of the land states it’s illegal to print anything that “undermines the dignity of the president of the republic.” And if you do print it, it could be two years in jail and up to $66,000 in fines.
In Turkey, freedom of speech is non-existent when it comes to certain politicians. Insulting the head of state, even previous heads of state who are dead, can result in a prison sentence of from one to four years. From what I’m told, a prison sentence in Turkey is no laughing matter.
When it comes to insulting the leaders of Iran, the fundamentalist rulers don’t mess around: “Anyone who insults any of the leaders of the three branches of government, presidential deputies, ministers, any of the members of Parliament, or any ministry staff, or any other state employees, due to their duties, shall be punished by imprisonment of three to six months, flogging (74 lashes) or a fine.”
Indonesia is known for strict laws, and they’re currently debating a replacement for an old statute that handed out up to six years in prison for insulting the president. The new proposal calls for only five years in prison. Truly enlightened.
I think it’s juvenile, dishonest and irresponsible for anyone, including pro athletes, to claim the American government is a totalitarian state cracking down on free speech.
If any of that statement were true, we wouldn’t be watching NFL players kneeling at the beginning of a children’s game. All of those players would be in jail.
Stu Salkeld is the acting editor of The Stettler Independent and writes a regular column for the paper.