NFL players stand up to Trump

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By Rick Howell

    You’d think the President of the United States would have far greater concerns – North Korea, health care, our crumbling infrastructure – than what’s happening on the playing fields of professional football.
    But as we know, this idiot in the White House is unlike anyone before him, and we never know what will occupy his deranged mind. So, recently, he made one of his signature crazy speeches and went after NFL players who, to him, hadn’t sufficiently worshipped the American flag.
    This all started last year when quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided that he wouldn’t stand for the national anthem, as a protest against racial injustice, specifically the epidemic of white policemen fatally shooting black civilians.
    That subject was and still is very much worthy of protest, a free speech guarantee, but since his involved a flag, well, some people lost all reason and relied on their emotions.
    Conservatives love to lecture the rest of us about “freedom,” but when it really comes to applying that to our daily lives, they balk. Let’s be clear: We don’t legislate patriotism in this country. No one is required by law to salute a flag, stand for one, or emote over it any way whatsoever.
    Flags are symbols; they are not the thing they are representing. I’m at least glad that, in this case, right-wingers are obsessing over an American flag and not a Confederate one.
     Obviously, the American flag represents our country, but if we’re honest, that’s a mixed bag. Oh, sure, we all know the conservative propaganda: We’re the greatest country ever; we “invented” freedom, and God loves us more than anyone else.
    That’s the simple-minded view, but it leaves out a lot. We’re also the country founded on the genocide of the Native Americans who were here first, on slavery, and the guarantee of “white privilege” to all who aren’t “colored.”
    We preach democracy to the world, but we have overthrown many democratically-elected governments, and have sacrificed too many of our young people in wars that weren’t necessary.
    Those facts don’t make me feel patriotic, and I won’t salute or stand for a flag to defend them. Nor will I apply to conservatives to approve my definition of patriotism, which is my right alone. It’s called “freedom.”
    And don’t say, well, so many people have “died for that flag.” No, they didn’t. If you find yourself in a war, you should be clear that it was your government that sent you there, not a flag.
     Trump said the “sons of b******” who won’t stand should be fired. But the NFL isn’t his lame TV show, “The Apprentice,” where he joyfully fired people at will. 
    NFL players have a union and contracts. They can’t be “fired” for any reason, much less for displeasing this ridiculous charlatan in the White House. (As an aside, imagine if Barack Obama had used the SOB phrase in public; “Christian conservatives” would have erupted, but they love Trump.)
    To their credit, NFL players, coaches, and union members reacted in massive numbers to reject his remarks. They took a knee and locked arms to show solidarity. Even many team owners joined them.
    His attack spurred more protests than there had already been. It also overshadowed the real issue here: African-Americans have every right to protest police shootings of their fellow countrymen, even if it involves the flag.
    If you want to live in a country where you’re forced to stand for a flag, try North Korea. We don’t force flag worship in this country. Again, it’s called freedom, something conservatives don’t truly seem to understand.
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, is a journalist and activist who can be reached by e-mail at RickDem117@gmail.com.