Over the weekend the sports world has been embroiled with the controversial subject of whether or not sports figures and people with a platform should protest during the national anthem. During this same weekend, I attended the Coyotes preseason home game against the San Jose Sharks.
I chose to stand.
This decision did not come lightly or without a great deal of thought put behind it because I agree with the protesters. I agree that police violence against unarmed citizens is wrong, it needs to stop and when it does happen perpetrators should be prosecuted.
That’s what these protests are supposed to be about!
The problem that I have with these protests is that it has become more about the manner of protest than the very serious subject of why the protests are occurring. Colin Kaepernick, the football player that started this movement more than a year ago gave his personal feelings on the state of the country and why he couldn’t feel pride for it:
I come from a very patriotic family: my grandfather served in Korea, my father enlisted in Vietnam, two of my brothers joined the military and a cousin was a Marine during the first Iraq war. Members of my family have been part of the police force, as well as volunteer first aid and firefighters for decades.
We all believe in serving our communities and our country to the core.
So to even consider kneeling or staying seated during the anthem, as I did a year ago and again this weekend, was huge for me. I stood on Saturday because if I wasn’t willing to kneel with Kaepernick when I agreed with him then I shouldn’t let the opinions of someone I disagree with sway me either.
There are things going on in this country that do not make me proud.
I am not proud that members of the police are acting as judges, juries, and executioners when everyone is supposed to be innocent before proven guilty.
I am not proud lawmakers thinks it’s okay to have freedom of speech for the things they agree with but not with the things they disagree.
I am not proud that this administration wants to deport children for the crimes of their parents.
I am not proud that media outlets are chasing the next big ratings hike instead of reporting stories of significance.
I am not proud that a hockey player that was considering kneeling was threatened by his team’s fans.
Chief among them is that I am not proud of the president we currently have who’s only accomplishment so far has been to further divide the country and the party he ran under. As an American, my personal line of embarrassment with this president was crossed long before he decided that peaceful anthem protesters were “sons of bitches” that deserved to be “fired”.
Despite all of this I chose to stand— because I also choose optimism.
The problems in this country can get better but we have to put in the work. Actual work not just symbolic pledges. We have to start listening to the people we disagree with and listening to people with marginalized voices.
If everyone isn’t able to ignore their own race, religion, gender or sexual orientation than none of us should ignore them either. If “All Lives Matter” we have to actually start acting like it. We’ve tried not paying attention to the politics that affect every part of our lives, it clearly doesn’t work!
I chose to stand because ultimately what it comes down to is I don’t have the same platform as a sports player. I don’t have the reach of a Sidney Crosby or even a Blake Wheeler.
My choosing not to stand does absolutely nothing to help the situation.
Instead I have been focusing my efforts on ways I can affect change. Donating to causes like the American Civil Liberties Union; researching how to be an ally to minority causes; speaking up more on social media, in my own social groups and, hardest of all, with my family members who will listen.
Actions speak louder than words and are more important than whether or not you kneel. (And yes this does include endorsing a politician and his views by hosting them or being hosted by them.) If we are going to be One Pack we have to re-learn how to disagree without silencing and without feeling personally attacked by someone else’s existence.
If you really want to make America great then start with yourself: how are you going to fight intolerance?