Bob Costas offers an important perspective on the debate over kneeling football players
In the wake of players from virtually every NFL team choosing to take a knee during the national anthem, Bob Costas, a noteworthy sportscaster for over thirty years, has chimed in on the President, the game, and the protest.
First, he takes issue with the selective use of the anthem in sports, whereas it is absent from every other realm of American entertainment:
"If you go to see Hamilton, which is about the founding of the republic, no one says, 'Wait a minute! Don’t raise the curtain until we hear the national anthem.' When you went to see Private Ryan, no one said, 'Turn off the projector until we’ve had the national anthem. It’s in sports where this stuff happens — sometimes movingly, sometimes, I’d submit, cynically."
Of course, there is a cynicism in evoking the military in order to silence protest protected by the first amendment. Even pro-free speech conservative commentators like Ben Shapiro have said that the NFL is a private organization and can fire players who they wish to fire - yet he rails against the tyranny of corporate control over employees' ideas when it comes to the campus and the author of the Google memo.
Either free speech is universal, or it is a husk.
"Because wrapping yourself in the flag and honoring the military is something which nobody is going to object to. We all respect their sacrifice. We all honor their sacrifice, and yet what it has come to mean, is that the flag is primarily and only about the military."
Donald Trump, worse, doesn't seem to respect the first amendment rights that our soldiers have earned by wetting the 'trees of liberty with the blood of tyrants', in Thomas Jefferson's evocative phrase:
Whatever happened to leftist snowflakes rejecting freedom of speech? It turns out that our President has no respect for the constitution either. Is America doomed to be pulled apart by two sides who each reject our founding values?
"Martin Luther King was a patriot, Susan B. Anthony was a patriot, dissidents are patriots, school teachers and social workers are patriots."
The patriotism of Donald Trump is rather one-note. Either you stand by the iconography of American nationalism, even while disparaging its values, or you're not being patriotic. This symbols-over-principles mentality seems destined to drive politics into a gutter.
"People cannot see that in his own way, Colin Kaepernick, however imperfectly, is doing a patriotic thing."
Of course, it's no longer just about Kaepernick. Even if he was allowed back into the league tomorrow, the fact would remain that it would take 228 years for the average black family to earn as much generational wealth as the average white family. That is institutional racism. It's not 'snowflake feelings'. It's economic reality.
Costas finally declares:
"Do you want a President of the United States who -- even if you're giving him the benefit of that doubt -- is so tone-deaf to the racial implications of this?"
That can not be denied: Donald Trump doesn't care about racial inequality. But when black Americans are on average less wealthy and more imprisoned than white Americans, as he once noted in some of his campaign speeches, why isn't the President even willing to hear these protests out? It seems once his feelings get hurt, he no longer cares about the issues. He just wants to re-assert his authority.
Here, you can check out more photos of the players who chose to take a knee after President Trump's disparaging comments about the patriotism and value of protest.