Letter: Athletes should find new way to protest

To the editor:

I’ve noticed a ground-swell of professional athletes taking the knee during the national anthem, and that strikes a bad chord with me, especially since I gave 38 years of my life to the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard in defense of our nation.

As I recall, the first incident of a professional athlete taking the knee during the national anthem happened on Aug. 26, when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick staged a solitary sit-down instead of standing with the right hand over the heart during the national anthem. I shrugged it off, thinking it was a pitiful way to make a public statement on racial injustice.

In true copy-cat fashion, more athletes are joining the protest. These sports figures aren’t stars; the stars are our first responders: firefighters, police, sheriffs, EMTs, doctors, nurses and our nation’s armed forces.

All bets were off the table when I saw on television last Wednesday (Sept. 21) the entire Indiana Fever women’s basketball team take a knee during the national anthem. It wasn’t one or a few but an entire professional sports team kneeling to protest racial injustice in this country.

What this team did was a disgrace to our country, the state of Indiana, our armed forces and our first responders. I don’t see this growing trend with athletes as something that is black vs. white but as a willful disregard for the role model position these people are in.

Parents and children in America watch professional athletes closely and imitate their leadership styles. What a shame that these protesters do so with such willful disregard to the sacred trust they hold among our nation’s youth. These athletes could find a better way to protest racial injustice besides showing disrespect during the national anthem.

The United States Flag Code, in Title 36, United States Code, Chapter 10, Section 170 covers “… Star-Spangled Banner … is designated the national anthem of the United States of America.” Section 171 reads, in part, “During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. … Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note.” The Flag Code is a guideline for proper flag etiquette and does not provide penalties for violations. Common sense dictates that people render respect to the United States flag whenever the national anthem is played.

People forget what it takes to birth a nation, and though there are scars in American history, many men and women sacrificed a lot, and some gave all so that we have the freedoms we enjoy. The same can be said for our firefighters and law enforcement, who daily sacrifice a tremendous amount to protect the safety and well-being of our citizens. Let’s never forget how much our flag symbolizes our national heritage and render the proper respect to it that it so richly deserves.

Paul Norton