Focus on the Why, Not the What

by Rich Rogers

September 25, 2017


Dear Steve,

In response to your column, entitled “Dear NFL: Put A Stop to the Flag Protest”, I want to make a few points clear.  First, I am an American. I am an African-American. I have been to countless sporting events and I ALWAYS stand for the national anthem. I am fully aware that America has many problems and issues that has plagued this country since its independence. But it’s my country and I represent my ancestors and predecessors who not only fought and died for it, but made contributions that make this the great country it is today.  With that said, I am appalled and disheartened that President of the United States singled out a group of American citizens by calling them “sons of bitches”. That’s unprecedented. This should outrage every American, and even if it doesn’t every American should understand that words like that cannot be taken lightly.

Colin Kaepernick began a personal protest to bring awareness to excessive force used by police.  Steve, you are an educated and learned man, an attorney, and it wouldn’t take long for you to research some of the horrific treatment by some police to people of color and the poor, mostly without repute.  It is a fair argument to make that the NFL field is not the place to make that statement. Personally, that would not have been my choice, but this country’s Constitution guarantees that right, like it or not. In your column, you suggest that the NFL must do something to end these protests.  I actually agree, but we disagree on the “how”. Any good business must pay attention to its employees and issues that are of importance to them. Perhaps there are many NFL players who have been victims of harassment or excessive force themselves.  Organizations have to AT LEAST pay attention and acknowledge the problems that plague their employees.  I saw that yesterday.  To shut them out, strongarm them, or retaliate against them would be foolish without at least having further dialogue.

Your passion for the flag is well received and it came out strongly in your column, however, your enthusiastic support of the flag needs to go further. You said, “one never, ever disrespects the flag or the national anthem”. There are people that feel that their rights are not guaranteed or equal under that flag.  People say, “that’s not the way to do it”. Well, what is? We’ve tried the Supreme Court, we’ve tried legislation, we’ve tried peaceful protests, some outliers have even tried violence.  Few seem to be listening. People want to be heard and want to be acknowledged.  Players have families and feelings.  They are not chattel that perform weekly, but professionals that have opinions and thoughts.

I guess my biggest issue from your column is your failure to address the President and his remarks. You made your point clear that you don’t want to be “lumped in” with Neo Nazis and KKK “thugs” if you disagree with the protest.  I am not, and would not do that. I am suggesting that every American citizen should be offended by Trump’s remarks.  When is too far, too far? I was pleased to see the response from most of the owners, but for those that respect the flag so much, you can’t do it halfway.  The flag protects EVERYONE’S rights, at least it should.

At some point, I think this issue will come to a head in the NFL, but there must be dialogue, not forced compliance.  The NFL needs to be careful.