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Stand — Or Kneel — For Something

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

09/24/2017 11:50 EDT | Updated 09/24/2017 15:34 EDT
Michael Zagaris via Getty Images

I’d rather be in with the “sons of bitches” than the “very fine people.”

Please #TakeTheKnee. I don’t know why any NFL player would be reading my words, but if you are, unite around this cause — and heck, everyone, take a knee! If peaceful protests did not produce results, those in power would not work tirelessly to silence them.

Take a knee for justice not oppression, for unity not divisiveness, for respect not racism, for humanity not white supremacy, for equality not inequity, for inclusion not discrimination, for freedom of speech not suppression, for love not hatred, for peace not violence or police brutality, for the America that CAN be not the one put forth by the President, for black lives not black men and women being flagrantly gunned down in the streets and disproportionately locked up in prisons.

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. What is right is often not (rarely) popular, welcomed or easy; that does not make it one iota less important, necessary or critical.

Do not forget Trump’s divisive words, do not become distracted by his antics, do not let his offensive behavior slide, do not overlook his racist and white supremacist patterns, do not normalize any of the President’s unconscionable actions, of which this is just the latest heinous disgrace. Repeatedly insisting and claiming to not be racist, while saying and doing things that appeal directly to a racist base and employing rhetoric to unmistakably stoke fires of division, is racism in action; attacking black athletes and influencers should not be good politics for anyone. Donald Trump’s “logic” on the NFL – like so much he spews, champions or puts forth – is twisted, dangerous, pathetic, disheartening, tragic, sickening, backwards, racist, terrifying and plain wrong. Why is Trump focused on THIS (or attempting to distract the public) when well over 3.5 million American citizens are without power, struggling, suffering in Puerto Rico, plus millions more across Florida, Texas and the US Virgin Islands, in additions to countless fellow human beings, struck by natural disaster in the past couple of weeks?

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. Not only can we speak openly, express our beliefs, demonstrate peacefully, protest injustice, rather we are called upon to do all of that and more. Those are the precise values and rights for which our brave, patriotic men and women in uniform continue to risk their lives, even make the ultimate sacrifice, to protect and defend.

Please note, kneeling before the flag does not violate the US Flag Code Chapter 10 Respecting the Flag. However, the following are direct conduct violations: carrying the flag flat or horizontally; wearing it as apparel, bedding or drapery; using it for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever; embroidering it on cushions or handkerchiefs; impressing it on paper napkins or anything for temporary use; using any part in an athletic uniform or costume. But NOT taking a knee.

Twenty-seven players and staff boldly and courageously took a knee before the Jaguars-Ravens football game, many more linked arms in solidarity. That is the most ever, including Shad Khan, the only non-white owner in the NFL who also donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration; I guess he won’t be firing any of those players, defying Donald Trump’s call to his owner friends to “get that son of a bitch off the field right now” in his now infamous speech. Stevie Wonder set the tone when he took a knee for America at the Global Citizen festival yesterday. The Oakland A’s Bruce Maxwell became the first Major League Baseball player to kneel during the national anthem, marking what I believe will be an expansion of the emblematic physical statement into other sports.

I suspect we will be seeing hundreds of players, staff and fans demonstrate before today’s NFL games – and can only hope that white players recognize the importance of being an ally and accomplice in this struggle for human rights, of using white privilege for the benefit of our brothers and sisters, of defending dignity on the field and off. This is not merely about solidarity or football or the flag; we are all tied together in the common fabric of destiny, an inalienable truth.

Countless players are talented, proactive, leading, philanthropic citizens, forces for good who care deeply and serve communities around the country – and may that only continue to deepen, thereby inspiring, educating, mobilizing and empowering the masses. Professional athletes are role models for millions of people of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities, ages, genders, faiths, politics who are watching, listening and taking note. I am proud to see leadership, teams, owners, players, commentators, leagues, coaches, human beings strongly and vocally support “peaceful pursuits of positive change” and social justice, to borrow a phrase from the statement of the San Francisco 49ers, leading the way alongside our other Bay Area teams. May this not only shift the culture of the NFL and sports, but far more importantly, that of the United States of America – to be one of justice and equity, safety and freedom for all.

Get political. Get active. Get woke. Stand – or kneel – for something, for anything, for everything.

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