What are the NFL protests teaching our children?

Debate continues over the National Football League protests, and as it rages, I have to wonder what these protests are teaching our children about standing up for their beliefs.

New England Patriots Adam Butler takes a knee during the national anthem. Mass., Sept. 24, 2017. Credit: Getty Images)

  • Are we teaching our children respect for the country?
  • Are we teaching our children the virtue of peaceful protest?
  • Are we teaching our children what their First Amendment rights guarantee or allow?
  • Are we teaching them about race, racial divides and how to overcome them?


All we’re doing is making it clear that we, as adults, are incapable of having difficult conversations and understanding opposing viewpoints.

I was born and raised on a military base.

In my view, the NFL players’ actions are disrespectful to military families.

I have one question for everyone:

The United States Air Force Military Honors Guard preparing for the gun salute in Phx., Ariz. Credit: April Morganroth

Have you ever sat through a “21-gun salute” for a loved one before they were lowered into the ground?

I have.

I’m a descendant of Civil War general George McClellan. And my family’s ties to the military and to law enforcement continue to this day.

“And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

That’s from The Star Spangled Banner.  Our national anthem.

Not standing for it is disrespectful to military families who have sacrificed for the very freedoms that allow you the right to peacefully protest.

As a military daughter, I can tell you the gun salute never gets easier.

Soldiers fire a 21 gun salute at the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. Credit: Getty Images

My father and mother met while in the U.S. Air Force. She retired and when she passed, I buried her with a gun salute. My father one day will also be buried with a gun salute.

My grandfather served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and U.S. Air Force during Korea, and Vietnam. We buried him with a 21-gun-salute.

Other family members – military veterans all – were either buried with a gun salute or will be when it’s their turn to leave this earth. 

So I ask again, have you ever sat through a 21-gun salute?

That’s why I stand for the national anthem, even if I disagree with the current national state of affairs.

Sign of ultimate sacrifice and respect

The United States Air Force Honor Guard, preparing the flag to be given to the family. Credit: April Morganroth

Today, in keeping with tradition, the military fires the 21-gun salute at noon, on Independence Day, Memorial Day, President’s Day and Washington’s birthday while flags are flown at half-mast.

This is followed by a 50-gun salute, representing all 50 states.

It’s a tribute of respect to the countless men and women who fought, some with their lives, for the freedoms we sometimes take for granted.

I took to social media to speak to military men and women about why they thought the NFL’s protests was disrespectful.

It’s important we listen carefully to their voices, too. So we understand all sides.

My post generated nearly 50 responses from military men and women.

There’s a time and place to protest

Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports

I know what the First Amendment says.

I understand what it means when we say, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

And I fully support everyone’s right to peacefully protest. Protests can be a powerful statement for change.

Rosa Parks is an exemplary example.

But I am nearly certain that if I joined a protest that started in front of my newsroom –while on the clock — I wouldn’t have a job to come back to.

William McCauley, a U.S. Army veteran who responded to my social media inquiry put it this way:

“Players do have a right to protest but as a paid player you are being paid to do a job and that job starts when you take the field. If you want to protest do it outside of work.”

Like McCauley, my issue with the national anthem protests has nothing to do with the very real issues the NFL players are standing against. Important issues like social injustice, racism and inequality.

But why do it during the national anthem? During a song that represents the fabric of who we are as a nation or the freedoms that members of my military family have died to defend?

The 2017 NFL Official Playing Rule handbook, mentions nothing about the national anthem.

Sports and standing, or not, for the anthem

Jacksonville Jaguars Leonard Fournette and team-mates kneel in protest during the national anthem. Credit: Getty Images.

More than two decades ago, the NBA suspended Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who refused to stand for the national anthem. Today, the NFL will not be doing the same thing.

Various professional leagues and teams have different rules or policies regarding their athletes and the national anthem.

For example, the National Basketball Association and the U.S. Soccer Federation state in their rulebook and/or bylaws that players should stand during the anthem. 

NASCAR issued a statement Monday morning that said, “Our respect for the national anthem has always been a hallmark of our pre-race events.”

But other leagues, including Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, don’t specifically address the issue.

Every military person I spoke to heard the NFL players, and understand what they are protesting against, but the nature of the protests — during the anthem — still made them feel disrespected.

We need to acknowledge that.

The national backlash, on both sides

Let me circle back around to the beginning.

I KNOW there are people out there who will completely disagree with me and be angry I wrote this. I KNOW those people will miss the point.

The problem isn’t the act of protest, it’s the manner, the time and the place. 

I have a right to express my opinion and you yours.

The problem is, in the age of social media, we’ve lost any ability to engage in civil discourse on touchy subjects.

We don’t take the time to actually LISTEN to each other. To ask, ‘Why do you feel the way you do?’ and then consider the answer.

Instead, we sling cheap shots and angry vitriol at each other in 140-character “clap backs” on Twitter and Facebook.

For example:

Or this:

You have my full, undivided attention. Do I have yours? Retired Army Specialist, Noah Edward said it best:

“I believe (these protests are) teaching children that it’s ok to be disrespectful to our country, and to be disrespectful to our military men and women.” Noah Edward

So what are these protests — and our subsequent reaction to them — teaching our children?

That we still cannot peacefully come together and effect real change without being disrespectful.

Perhaps we should all take a private knee and really think about this issue.

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