It can hardly be argued that his decision was distasteful and disrespectful, but then, what else would you expect from an entitled millionaire?
During the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, Robert “Kid Rock” Ritchie thought it would be a good idea to wear an American flag as a poncho; a clear violation of the law under the U.S Flag Code.
There was criticism but nowhere near the current bombast, though defacing a flag by cutting a hole in it, is as offensive as it gets.
Yet, no one called for a national boycott of Kid Rock’s records and concerts, nor were there ceremonial burnings of his obscenity-laced T-shirts.
So, the noticeable absence of anger raises the question: What constitutes real patriotism, and who gets to decide?
Surely, patriotism is more than flag-waving, bumper-stickers and emotion. Surely, it requires some work. A third of us can’t identify the three branches of our own government. Until the hurricanes struck, more than half of us didn’t know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.
Surely, patriotism also means that no one else has the right to tell us how we can and can’t express it.
It’s being argued in some quarters that the current NFL protests denigrate the sacrifices of men and women who fought and died in service to the nation. But the brave and selfless people who took the sacred oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, did so knowing that it guarantees the right of free speech, which includes peaceful protest.
It also would be nice if we were more mindful that numerous other Americans have made similar sacrifices. Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo, the Rev. James Reeb, Andrew Goodwin, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, Heather Heyer, and four little girls in a church basement, all died for their country.
Their murders may not be quantified as such, but make no mistake — they did.
It can only be hoped that people who are livid at NFL players’ pregame protests to highlight injustice, are equally upset that our country has 50,000 homeless veterans. Hopefully, they also are angry that Sen. John McCain, and the Gold Star family of Capt. Humayan Khan have yet to receive apologies for offensive remarks made on the campaign trail by Donald Trump in an attempt to diminish them.
In this country, we repeatedly make the mistake of equating wealth with many things, including impunity. The thinking that millionaire athletes should just shut up and be grateful, that their money and celebrity leave no place for activism or concern for others, contradicts the lives of the Founding Fathers, all of whom were men of means, otherwise they would not have had a role in leading the American Revolution.
We’ve been raised to view the Founders as heroes, but in the eyes of British Crown they were anything but. Rather, they were seen as ungrateful rubes and wretches who had become traitors and terrorists. What makes them heroes to us is their unwillingness to surrender the dream of independence, including the right to criticize the government, which they viewed as so important, they codified it.
Even in a post-Obama America, wealth is not a get-out-of-having-the-worst-assumed-about-you card. It doesn’t prevent black men in nice cars and neighborhoods from getting pulled over. LeBron James is on track to become the world’s first billionaire athlete, but it didn’t stop someone from vandalizing his home with a racial epithet.
Which brings us back to the game-day protests, the purpose of which has been all-but obscured by the shouting. You may think them inappropriate, hypocritical, and self-serving to the point where you’ll never again watch another game or buy another piece of NFL gear. Your blood might boil at the very mention of Colin Kaepernick. Even so, we don’t get to decide how a fellow American may exercise his freedom of speech, no matter how much we may hate it.
Taking a knee is not something I would do. But nothing is more American than having that choice.
— Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @cgoshayREP