“I don’t want there to be questions of why I am standing or if I will kneel.”
I know it would probably be best to stay out of it, but when you believe in something as much as I do it gets to a point where you want both sides to be heard.
I am not questioning anyone’s reasons or rights to protest, but instead the method. This entire protest about raising awareness for racial inequality has gotten lost in the media and turned into a debate about whether to sit or stand for the national anthem. I want to take this time to remind everyone why I stand.
I stand because I love my country.
I stand because I want to honor the people putting their lives on the line for me on a daily basis in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
I stand because my cousin is a pilot in the United States Air Force, risking his life flying F-15s in active war zones. He takes pride in his job protecting Americans, a sacrifice that all members of every branch of the United States military willfully take.
For the first game this weekend against the Baltimore Ravens, I am writing Pat Tillman’s name on my cleats. And each game thereafter, I am going to write another person’s name from the United States military, whether active, retired, killed or missing in action, or a prisoner of war. These people are why I am standing because they gave me and everyone else the chance to have freedom and earn a living playing a sport I love.
When you look at what is happening all over the world today, as a fellow professional football player, I am in awe of Pat Tillman’s courage. In 2002, he walked away from millions of dollars and a “dream” most people couldn’t imagine achieving to do one thing, fight for his country. Pat wasn’t fighting for himself, he wasn’t fighting for one group vs. another; he was fighting for Americans.
Fast-forward 15 years, it’s sad to see where we are today. Divided. In this world of turmoil, I still believe in one thing strongly and that’s the flag and everything our country was built on.
As I stand for the national anthem, I don’t want there to be questions of why I am standing or if I will kneel. I want there to be a clear understanding of why I stand. I want there to be a clear understanding of why I respect our flag and why I love our country.
Fast-forward another 15 years and hopefully we will all be able to look back at these years unified with pride to be Americans.
To make an impact and help with the people I respect, I am moving forward supporting the K9s For Warriors charity. Something that many people in our country overlook are the negative affects war has on the individuals putting their lives on the line for our freedom.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious issue and something that sadly results in suicide from many military veterans when not treated correctly. Meeting and talking with the leaders from K9s For Warriors, they worry that doctors are masking the issues of PTSD by just giving these individuals pills to mask their traumatic experiences. One thing they are finding that helps more than anything is highly trained service dogs.
In supporting this charity, I want to raise awareness for the real issues affecting military veterans who suffer from PTSD while also raising money to train more dogs to improve the lives of military veterans.
I respect my fellow players right to kneel during the national anthem but I hope everyone now knows why I stand, and respects that as well.
Tight End, Cincinnati Bengals