Time to move past an­them sour notes

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - OPINION - Com­men­tary » Chris­tine Flow­ers Chris­tine Flow­ers Colum­nist

I frankly don’t care if a player kneels or puts a fist up or puts his hand on his heart or does cart­wheels dur­ing the Na­tional An­them. This is one area in which I’m pro choice. If you don’t be­lieve in re­spect­ing the sym­bols and cer­e­mony of our na­tion, that’s on you. I hap­pen to think you’re a class­less putz, but I won’t force you to show fab­ri­cated af­fec­tion.

You don’t feel it, don’t do it. Pretty sim­ple. That’s why I think the NFL rule re­quir­ing play­ers to ei­ther stand dur­ing the an­them, or re­main in the locker room is un­nec­es­sary and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

What good does it do to es­sen­tially force a man to ex­press loy­alty he doesn’t re­ally feel, es­pe­cially when these are noth­ing more than ath­letes play­ing a game? These are not sol­diers. These are not doc­tors per­form­ing triage. They’re peo­ple with great me­tab­o­lisms and in-de­mand skills who have a much higher opin­ion of them­selves than they should. Who cares if they don’t have class?

I didn’t al­ways feel this way. I was among those peo­ple de­mand­ing that the Colin Kaeper­nicks of the world. I wrote a num­ber of col­umns crit­i­ciz­ing this con­fla­tion of foot­ball and pa­tri­o­tism with Black Lives Mat­ter, and telling the play­ers that they had a First Amend­ment right to protest but they didn’t have a First Amend­ment right to force us to watch them do­ing it.

But af­ter many months, and par­tic­u­larly af­ter the show­down be­tween the White House and the Ea­gles this week, I am so over the whole an­them thing. Over, in fact, to the point of pop­ping Dra­mamine ev­ery time I hear the name Malcolm Jenk­ins, “Re­spect the Flag,” and “Civil Dis­obe­di­ence.”

Malcolm is the kind of fel­low who thinks he’s the Joan of Arc of the grid­iron, lead­ing his no­ble crew of so­cially con­scious team­mates to vic­tory against the big­ots of the world (some of whom, pre­sum­ably, hold sea­son tick­ets and have done so for more than a half cen­tury.

You know, the tick­ets that help pay his salary.) I re­cently wrote a col­umn about how ridicu­lous it was for the Six­ers to sup­port Meek Mill, and Malcolm de­cided to tweet out to his hun­dreds of thou­sands of fol­low­ers that my col­umn was “dumb s---.” That’s OK, he’s a citizen and has ev­ery right to say what he wants (and he’s a citizen who doesn’t want to ex­press honor and re­spect to the sym­bols of the coun­try that gives him those rights, but never mind.)

What’s not OK is re­fus­ing to come on my ra­dio show and dis­cuss race re­la­tions with me. I asked, and am still wait­ing for a tweet, an email, a call.

What’s also not OK is Malcolm and his fel­low trav­el­ers’ re­fusal to en­gage with peo­ple who dis­agree with them, like go­ing to the White House and talk­ing to Pres­i­dent Trump about crim­i­nal jus­tice is­sues. No, Malcolm just en­gages in his own lit­tle boy­cott and tries to frame it as con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion to the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Trump doesn’t come off smelling like a lilly in all of this. He is us­ing the whole an­them-kneel­ing-pa­tri­o­tism de­bate to ad­vance a po­lit­i­cal agenda and fire up his base, and it’s work­ing.

The high-pro­file gad­flys of sports and en­ter­tain­ment some­how feel they have im­por­tant things to tell us and big thoughts to com­mu­ni­cate and im­por­tant val­ues to in­cul­cate just be­cause some­one hired them to read a script or fol­low a play­book.

Yes, a few ac­tu­ally do their com­mu­nity ser­vice. I’m scolded by so­cial jus­tice types all the time about how these high-pro­file peo­ple use their celebrity to bring at­ten­tion to in­jus­tice, to nec­es­sary causes, yadda yadda, blah blah blah.

Yes, they set up foun­da­tions. Yup, they spend money. Oooh, they wear black dresses to awards shows and they raise their fists on the side­lines.

I’m not taken with them as much as they’re taken with them­selves.

And that’s why I no longer care if Malcolm and his friends show re­spect dur­ing the Na­tional An­them. I no longer care if they say snarky things about the pres­i­dent, for­get­ting that the White House is the peo­ple’s house and Trump is just a tem­po­rary ten­ant.

I don’t care if they ex­press their dis­dain for the reg­u­lar Joes and Josies who pay through the nose to watch them throw a ball around for a few Sun­days in the Fall (and a lot of guys did it a lot bet­ter in black and white, many years ago at Franklin Field.)

I don’t re­ally give a damn if they take a knee. Be­cause they’re ir­rel­e­vant, in the grand scheme of things. So let them, as Maya An­jelou once said, show us who they re­ally are.

Most of us al­ready know.

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