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Add grieving families to NFL’s ‘anthem’ discussion

Here we go again.

Last week, while eating lunch and catching up on the latest sports news at espn.com, I stumbled across an article detailing a decision made by Miami players Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson to take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem that preceded an NFL preseason game between the Dolphins and Tampa Bay.

Meanwhile, other NFL players opted to show their distain for being ordered to abide by a new policy regarding pre-game ceremonies, which includes the traditional playing of the Anthem, during last week’s opening of preseason games.

Malcolm Jenkins and De’Vante Bausby of the Eagles raised their fists into the air during pre-game festivities of the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh contest.

Jacksonville teammates Telvin Smith, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon chose to stand in the tunnel leading to the field while the National Anthem was played prior to the Jaguars/New Orleans Saints game.

This all comes as the NFL, team owners and the Players Union are still engaged in discussions over what guidelines/protocol the players and other on-field team personnel should follow in regards to the playing of our National Anthem.

Earlier this summer, the NFL brass ordered all players/on-field team personnel to stand while that song is being played or face fines and possibly game suspensions. For those still wanting to make some sort of political/social statement, they could skip the pre-game ceremonies and wait in the locker room or the tunnel ‘til the Anthem is finished.

On paper, all that seemed fair, but yet the Players Union still took exception.

As expected, the backlash was immediate to the actions of Stills and Wilson.

“The Palm Beach County PBA (Police Benevolent Association) recently offered our members discounts to a Miami Dolphins game because the franchise said they were going to honor all first responders,” the union said in a statement on Facebook, as reported by USA Today. “We entered into this partnership with the understanding that the Dolphins organization would require their players to stand for the National Anthem. This did not happen.

“If you have already purchased tickets to this game, we encourage you to call the Dolphins ticket office to request a refund because this organization obviously does not honor First Responders and the dangers they put themselves in every day,” the Facebook post added.

I get the feeling that other NFL fans around the country are fed up as well over the Anthem controversy. Personally, I’m all for freedom of speech, but when you represent a company (in this case, an NFL team owner) you are required to follow that company’s employee handbook. If that handbook requires an employee stand and show respect for our nation’s flag during the playing of the National Anthem, then so be it. Failure to follow the rules set forth ends with the discipline set forth.

What prompted me to again write about this controversy (I made my feelings known in an earlier column that we, as Americans, need to show our respect for the flag and the Anthem due to brave men and women who protect this great nation each day….military and other first responders) was listening to the Mark Levin radio show on the way home from work this past Friday night.

A caller, a 55-year-old man, referenced what he felt was “disrespect” shown by the NFL players choosing to kneel or pump their fists skyward while the Anthem was played. The caller told Mr. Levin that he was still struggling over the loss of his son five years ago. His son, a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne, was killed in action while deployed to Iraq.

“Our flag takes on a whole different meaning when you see it draped over the coffin of a loved one,” said the caller.

That brought a tear to my eye, and to Mr. Levin as well as the radio show host, known for his tough demeanor, became very emotional in his response.

“I’ve noticed that in these (standing for the Anthem) discussions that the (NFL) players, owners, (players) union, and NFL officials are at the table talking about this,” Levin said. “But guess who’s not at the same table….people like you (parents of military personnel killed in battle). The NFL, the players, and the union need to hear your stories.”

Will those “stories” have any impact on their final decision? We won’t know that answer unless these Blue Star families are made part of the discussion.

 

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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