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Freedom of speech when we should be quiet

I know you’ve heard about this. The National Anthem is played and an able-bodied football player doesn’t stand up. Well that starts another imbroglio. All sorts of people are mad that the player doesn’t stand for the National Anthem. Then he has to make it worse by talking. He makes big dollars to play football and he won’t stand for the National Anthem? All sorts of people pitch a fit. They are mad and think he should make an apology to veterans, politicians, union leaders, police officers and any one else that needs a reminder of patriotism. It doesn’t take long for a football player to start talking about the wrong thing. He talks about income inequality and oppression and his first amendment rights to free speech. Why couldn’t he come up with something better? Income inequality? You make millions of dollars playing a game and you want to mention that you make more money than most of the people in the country? You could have been quiet and this controversy would be over by now. Had he been as smart as a NASCAR driver he would have mentioned a bunch of sponsors and said he didn’t hear the anthem being played. “I was retying my Nike Pro Cleats shoe and adjusting my Russell Championship Jersey. I was focusing on the game plan and was in a Zen like state reviewing the game plan in my head. I was just distracted in the moment.” If he had closed his eyes, he could claim he was praying and was in deep meditation. Saying nothing would be the best thing. We want people to play football. If the players get too caught up in causes, they can cause all sorts of problems. People are mad and they don’t want to deal with something like this. Of course there are lots of folks that think he should be allowed to sit out a song or a pledge or anything else. That is the way freedom of speech works.

I do have a selfish reason for saying all this. I’ve already had four conversations about this subject with some of One guy is so mad about this he claims that he is never going to watch a pro football game again. He thinks it is a national disgrace. I had to listen to this rant for a little while before he told me that he hasn’t watched a professional football game in three years. He still thinks the guy should have been willing to stand during the anthem. Other friends remind me that it is every citizen’s right to express their opinion. I understand that too. I just don’t want to hear it. The first amendment is important to me. I couldn’t write this column without the first amendment. There are just other things I want to think about. With every thing else that is going on in the world, he could have merely put his hand over his heart and stood by a teammate and everything would be hunky dory. Being quiet has lots of benefits. I’m an old guy and I don’t want to be drawn into a pro life or pro-choice debate. Should we execute people that step on a flag or just give them life in prison? How about letting people out of prison for drug offenses since we have legalized marijuana laws in some states? There are lots of things that are right and wrong. We should stand for the anthem if able but it is perfectly alright if we do not. In a stadium with seventy thousand people does it make any difference if one person does not stand? I went to a college football game with over ninety thousand people in attendance. Our team was at the other end of the stadium trying to score a touchdown. Everyone was yelling except me. A guy turned to me and said, “Make some noise.” I wondered if the team could hear me way over here. Do you think our quarterback could hear me over the other fans? I told him I was trying to pace myself for the fourth quarter. Football players might just remember that for six months they could be quiet and be judged by their football playing skills. In retirement they could run for political office and say whatever they wanted.


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