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Windsor: NFL players American for protesting Trump's national anthem rant

By Shawn Windsor / Detroit Free Press (TNS) • Sep 28, 2017 at 10:37 AM

No other sport in America operates in a chasm like the NFL. Its fans don’t understand its players. Its players are tired of educating its fans.

Well, they haven’t said that yet, but I would be, especially after hearing all those boos crackle through Ford Field on Sunday afternoon at the start of the national anthem.

The problem, aside from the obvious racism, is a lack of empathy. The folks booing the eight Lions players who kneeled Sunday have no idea what it’s like to be black in America. What’s worse, they don’t want to know.

Or they wouldn’t boo. Wouldn’t act like the American Flag has but one meaning: theirs. Wouldn’t use the national anthem protests as an excuse to drown out peaceful protesters.

All they see is the money. That players should take it and be grateful. President Trump tweeted as much Sunday afternoon.

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect … our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem.”

Privilege?

That’s a loaded – and coded – word right there, and gets at the crux of all this anger surrounding the League right now. To those booing, black folks are meant to be entertainers. Run, jump, catch, dance (only a little) and sit down. Then do it again after I grab another beer.

Protest someplace else.

The problem is: where? And when? And why is it always someone else who gets to make these rules?

Besides, the players who knelt Sunday for the Lions – and for nearly every other team around the League – this never was about the flag anyway. Or the anthem. It was originally about raising awareness for social injustice. It was about protesting police brutality.

Forgetting that is forgetting where so many NFL players come from, forgetting the neighborhoods so often rife with the very things they are protesting.

Yes, fans that boo have a right to boo. They have a right to disagree with the symbolism. They also have a moral obligation to try to understand why it’s happening, to try to understand where so many of the players that bring so much joy come from.

This isn’t easy, of course. But it’s critical.

Especially when that attempt at finding common ground rarely comes from our leader. Remember, these protests Sunday multiplied because the President told a crowd of his supporters that the protesters should be fired

“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now,” he said at a rally in Alabama on Friday. “He’s fired. He’s fired.”

That was, in effect, a call to arms, not a call for unity. And it’s only making things worse.

You could hear the ripple effect Sunday at Ford Field. In the intensity of the booing, yes, but also in the locked arms down the pre-game sideline – including owner Martha Ford – and in the unsettling quality that drifted over the opening proceedings.

So, empathy, and understanding, and a recap:

The flag is a symbol of this country, and everything in it. Lots of NFL players come from places that are hard for us to fathom.

As Lions’ head coach, Jim Caldwell, said:

“I’ve been in the league a little while, and I know the players in this league, the are no SOB’s in this league. These are men that work hard, of integrity, they’re involved in our communities. They’re fathers, they’re brothers. Our guys, just like anything else, believe in unity, civility and also the first amendment rights to peaceful expression and freedom of speech.”

That doesn’t make them disrespectful. Or ungrateful. Or a traitor.

It makes them American. Plain and simple.

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