Taking a Second Knee: The NFL and Mr. Trump


Traditionally kneeling on one knee is a posture of humility one assumes reverentially while receiving recognition and highest honor for exceptional achievement. The best known such occasion is the rare, elegant, and lofty moment of knighthood.

Kneeling on both knees, traditionally is understood as a position of prayer, of petition to the loving God of all, asking blessings for others.

So, I take a second knee.

My prayer is for my country, and for those who have paid the ultimate price for me and for my family, and for the families who live with unspeakable loss of children and family members who have fallen for my freedoms. My prayer is also for all who pay a price in so many other ways, for nurses, for firemen and women, for construction workers, priests and imams, for business owners, and all my fellow brothers and sisters interwoven in daily life together.

My prayer is for the victims of racism, victims of abuse, injustice, and inequality, for ethnic minorities, for women, slaves, for all rendered powerless against greed, whimsy, and evil, demonic designs. I am sorry and pained by the persistence of racism, and other vile perpetration of inequality against my fellow Americans. I pray for all people of every color and ethnicity from black to white, and everything in between, who battle valiantly in solidarity across racial and ethnic lines to banish evil, and build a land of true equality.

I pray for the young athletes who have trained on lonely paths from very young, missing much of childhood’s delights, in their noble efforts to become exceptional and thrilling to watch. I am sorry that so many are dragged into a public space so distasteful and acid.

So, I bend a second knee.

The “take a knee” protests plaguing the NFL and the national fabric presently originated neither in traditions of valor and chivalry (such as in knightings), nor in the ubiquitous traditions of spirituality (such as in prayer). Rather they originated in the fact that Mr. Kaepernick sitting down while all others stood to honor their country, looked kind of goofy and slovenly. He was just some guy sitting down, and as such just sitting there could not meet Mr. Kaepernick’s obsessive attention-seeking, always a quality of his, even long before his crusade for racial justice in America.

Ironically or tragically, the “take a knee” folly plaguing the NFL and our nation is harming the cause which originally sparked Mr. Kaepernick to publicly disrespect his country and his fans. His cause is important beyond words, a crusade to diminish the frequency of, and ultimately obstruct the possibility of police brutality, and possibly more importantly to take a good hard look, and where needed fully reform any dimensions of America’s criminal justice system that uniquely disadvantage any demographic group based on race or ethnicity. This cause, ultimately must prevail and be shouted from the roof-tops. It must fearlessly march toward that third rail, the persistence of racism in America. The tragedy or irony to which I refer is that the protests have shifted attention away from these horrifying realities in American life, and instead have made of this all important issue, more of the tired, shallow, vacuous, meaningless blah that continues to drag our nation further and further into dangerous and self-defeating division. This makes me sad.

The solidarity-”knee-taking” that wild-fired last week was not publicly communicated as solidarity with the core cause that Mr. Kaepernick was refashioned into championing. It was communicated as “team” solidarity, and the secondary “championing” of Americans’ “right to protest.” This chest pounding is in important ways a distraction from the much more important and serious problem of racism in America.

Add President Trump into the equation and the distraction is complete. This makes me sad.

In response, I write to make an appeal to every American. Please refuse to play the game. Do not contribute to divisiveness in America. This hurts us. Please do not allow profit seeking media and social nets to suck you in, and gin you up.

There is no fight. There is nothing to discuss. I am quite sure that the vast majority of us lead highly interracial lives. We all might have biases and prejudices, but we are not content with that. We are happy even grateful to work on getting better, transcending our histories, and our own mistakes. We are grateful for our friends of many races who help us see possibly even horrible things about ourselves, and things we long to improve.

Here are some of the realities driving this conversation that media, and people seeking our attention for selling ads are exploiting, exacerbating, and pouring gas on.

  1. Is there racism in America? Yes
  2. Are there occasions of police brutality? Yes
  3. Does the criminal justice system in America disadvantage certain racial and ethnic groups? Probably yes.
  4. Do athletes and entertainers have the right to protest social ills, and promote causes that are important to them? Yes
  5. Is it OK not to patronize stores, industries, and entertainers who do things that are distasteful to you? Yes
  6. Is the President of the United States permitted to have and express opinions on things? Yes
  7. Do Americans have to agree with the President of the United States? No

I think we’re all in the same general ball park on this list. So the solution should be simple enough, and we should flat out refuse to be whipped up into hating or disrespecting one another:

  1. People who are sensitive to the problems of racism in America should invest sacrificially, and by all means possible to improve the situation
  2. Public figures who have concerns about various social or political issues should make their views known, if they like
  3. People who are offended by entertainers, industries and corporations, and other profit seeking entities should not patronize them.

Problem solved.

The National Anthem while performed at US sporting events is important at deep and even emotional levels to a great many Americans. Players who choose not to properly honor the Anthem, and all that it implies, will greatly hurt the sport, and in doing so hurt many of their friends and teammates. Are they free to do so? Of course they are. If they persist, support for the sport will decline. OK. That’s ok.

This is not the end of the world. A great many of us rediscovered the heart-warming beauty of the minors, and local sandlot ball during the MLB strike. The same will happen to football.

It seems weekly NFL viewership presently is between 15–17 million viewers weekly. NFL salaries top (so far) at 24 million dollars a year, and if you go down 500 players, you’re still over 3 million a year.

What if the league cannot solve the “take a knee” problem, and fans decide to abandon the sport? What if viewership dropped to 5 or 8 million viewers a week? What if top salaries dropped all the way down to 12 million dollars a year? That should be ok, I think? I think 12 million dollars a year is ok. No?

Please do your part to help solve the problem of racism in the country at large, and in the criminal justice system. Please stop watching the NFL if the actions of the players and owners offend you. Please protest if you think this helps anything.

And so, I think we’re all good here.

Please do not let bloodsuckers in MSM and social nets gin up hatred, anger, and division in your heart, and in our nation.

Let us pray.