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home : opinions : opinions
January 20, 2018

The Publisher's Pen

The irony of National Anthem protests not any less a year later

The National Anthem — and how some influential athletes are treating it — is once again in the news after President Trump heavily criticized players who take a knee or otherwise protest at the starts of contests, and NFL teams have reacted.

It’s an extremely divisive issue in the sense that people tend to be very passionate in directions that are, by nature, at odds.

On one hand, we have respect for the American flag and what it represents in terms of the sacrifices — sometimes the ultimate sacrifce — made by our military personnel. On the other, the very freedom preserved by those same sacrifices offers our citizens the option to protest without legal penalty.

It was nearly exactly one year ago in the Sept. 29, 2016 edition I wrote this in the same space when a few Nebraska football players chose to kneel in a game at Northwestern:

The silent protest by the players brought attention to the issue important to them, but it also brought deep and angry scrutiny from many people who have argued that such a sign of disrespect to the nation and the people who have fought for its independence over the years reflects poorly on the university and state they represent.

I don’t agree with the movement among athletes to use the National Anthem as a time to express themselves via protests. I think there must be other ways.

But I’m very proud to live in a nation that allows it without penalty.

I stand by those words. It’s a shame that athletes feel they don’t have an alternative way to voice their concerns about injustices they perceive requires the reflection of an imperfect nation. But I also wouldn’t want to live in a police state where even good taste was a requirement.

As I wrote then:

Right or wrong, the National Anthem protests are an ultimate expression of this country’s greatness if only because they state, in unequivocal terms, that we are indeed free people.

I do think that as a society we need to be very careful not to fan flames of discontent. In an era of social media that is riddled with misinformation, places like Facebook and Twitter are full of landmines of manipulation where emotion trumps facts far too often.

It takes very little talent to create a meme that pairs an image with words, and context is often forsaken in the name of a good narrative. I understand the sentiment that mainstream media needs to be taken with a grain of salt, and distrust of potential biases is probably wise. But, too often, what is portrayed as fact on the Internet requires enough salt to safen a late fall frozen sidewalk in Nebraska. Be smart, folks.


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