NFL players ought to stand during the national anthem. Our anthem is not about the president and it should not be about the players’ causes. It is not about whether they have the right to sit, kneel or be absent. They do. It is not about whether fans, appalled by the sitting and kneeling, should turn off the games, stop buying tickets and merchandise, and let their own voice be heard. They should.
Our anthem is about our flag. It is about the men and women who have fought behind it and too often come home under it. They gave their limbs, youth and lives for the ideals the flag represents. Those ideals, of freedom, liberty and equal rights for all, were tested at Concord, Gettysburg, the Argonne Forest, Normandy and the numerous other places where American blood was spilled.
There is a reason that the flag was planted on the moon, raised by Marines at Iwo Jima and placed upon the smoldering ruins after Sept. 11, 2001. There is a reason that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. marched with the flag at Selma, and a reason the flag graced the casket of Rosa Parks. It tells the world that in times of triumph and tragedy, we remain Americans.
The athletes of the NFL and all other professional sports have been given a political voice that is disproportionate to their numbers. They have innumerable opportunities and venues to shape the public debate. While I refuse to abdicate the moral high ground to a player adorned in pigs-in-cop-uniforms socks, I do not challenge his right to speak. Serious debate, however, is rarely started with cheap antics. With myriad choices available to rally a crowd to their cause or to rebuke the establishment, there is simply no good reason to disrespect the flag and all that it stands for.
JOHN A. ZUKOWSKI
East Setauket, N.Y.
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