Just remember, either we all have the right to express ourselves, or none of us do. You can't have it both ways.
By all means yes, boycott the NFL football games that will be played on Veterans Day weekend.
A growing movement has appeared on social media urging people to boycott the games that weekend. It comes in response to the controversy surrounding players taking a knee during the national anthem as a way to protest for racial equality.
Self-proclaimed patriots have responded to the players’ protests, and the NFL team owners’ united response in supporting their players, by condemning the league. Apparently exercising freedom of expression is only applicable in America if the expression is one you agree with. If not, you are not free to do that.
Those speaking out against the players’ right to protest have every right to do so. And if they want to boycott the NFL they have every right to do that as well, and to encourage others to join in their cause. But the personal attacks against the players who are also exercising their personal rights are out of line.
Basically, you can disagree with their form of expression, but you cannot disagree with their right to express themselves. If you don’t understand that, or if you do understand the concept but do not accept it, then you have no clue what America stands for.
The arguments about how the players are disrespecting the flag, or the national anthem or even the military have no place in this discussion. Either you believe people have a right to express themselves or you don’t.
When I was in the military there was a similar issue with people burning the flag. I think it is revolting for people to burn the flag. But myself, and everyone I served with, knew that we were not in the military to protect the flag from being set on fire, we were in the military to protect the rights of people to express themselves, even if we disagreed with how they did so.
Years later, in one community where I worked, the KKK at times held rallies. People opposed to their racist ideology wanted them banned, but what worked much better was to allow them to put their hate on full public display for all to see. Counter events celebrating diversity and our unity as a blended nation were planned at the same time as the KKK rallies, and you can probably guess which rally brought in the most people, and brought more people together.
A similar thing happened when a so-called religious group decided to take their homophobic message to the funerals of military members killed in the line of duty. The group had a right to protest, within established limitations, but in virtually every community where they showed up others also came to spread a message of love and offer support to the grieving family.
Did the officials in the towns where these protesters appeared support homophobic views? Absolutely not. Did officials in towns where the KKK holds rallies support racist views? You would be hard-pressed to find an elected official who said they did. But what these public officials did support was a basic American freedom of expression, whether they agreed with what was being expressed or not.
Beyond that, the focus throughout this entire manufactured controversy has been on the players. What about the fans? How many rush off to the restroom or hit the beer or food stand as the national anthem is being played? And should you only stand for the national anthem if you are at the event where it is being played? Do you even stop stuffing nachos down your throat if you are at home on your couch? What about all the self-professed patriots condemning others for “disrespecting” the flag who have the Confederate flag flapping on a pole outside their home, or displayed on stickers on their vehicles? Is it OK to pay homage in that way to a symbol of racism and divisiveness that literally brought our country to war with itself? How is that respecting our nation, our flag or our military? The hypocrisy is astounding.
But you know what? We live in a free country where people can express themselves as they see fit. People can fly the Confederate flag, walk down the street decked out in their KKK robe and hood or stand on a corner with a sign saying the world will end tomorrow because we’ve become a godless society.
So by all means boycott the NFL on Veterans Day weekend. That is your right. Just stop trying to take away the rights of other Americans because you don’t happen to agree with them. Either we all enjoy the same rights, or none of us have any rights. You can’t have it both ways; at least, not if you want to call yourself an American.
Jim Lee is editor for GateHouse Media Delaware. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.