By Shannon Reardon
When I was younger my parents told me to stand up for what I believed in, to stand up for what’s right.
My convictions have gotten me into verbal altercations, lost me a few friends, and forced me to stand in front of an auditorium of people and tell them that they were wrong.
My convictions most recently have had me literally, and figuratively standing up for something I disagreed with a year ago.
As an avid football fan and someone who cries during the national anthem, I couldn’t believe my eyes when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made the decision to kneel for the duration of the song. I found it disgraceful and disrespectful.
I was uncomfortable.
Football season is the time of year when I get to watch grown men hit each other while I verbally berate my friends about how much better my team is than theirs. I don’t want to think about real life issues, especially while I’m watching the game.
Then I noticed Eagles’ safety Malcom Jenkins raising his fist during the national anthem. I noticed other players taking a knee.
My argument during last year’s football season consisted of two points: why couldn’t players raise awareness off the field, and how could they dishonor their country without a second thought?
These two points quickly dissolved when I looked into the programs and the steps that players take to better their communities and the communities of the cities that they play in. The charity events and work that many of the players do go unnoticed.
The second point is harder and less concrete to prove, but it stems from the disrespect that people of color are subjected to daily. We can all try and turn a blind eye because it’s a topic that this nation still deems uncomfortable, but that doesn’t fix the problem.
In the off-season from football, I began watching videos that made me sick to my stomach. I saw a chapter of Black Lives Matter peacefully protesting at a rally while being spit on, cursed at, and berated with “All Lives Matter” chants.
So why can’t these football players use the national platform they’re given every Sunday?
Because the topic makes people uncomfortable. The argument has become one about “how players are disrespecting our flag and military,” instead of seeing the reality, which is a quiet protest of men who feel the sting of centuries of inequality.
On Oct. 7, I attended the Rock Allegiance music festival at the BB&T Pavillon in Camden, NJ. Hard rock band, Five Finger Death Punch, took the stage, and halfway through their set the singer, Ivan Moody, paused their set to talk about the kneeling controversy.
“If you don’t like our flag, I’ll help you pack,” were the words printed on Moody’s shirt, which prompted a monologue where the frontman talked about being from a military family and his disdain for the kneeling movement.
As the singer finished telling cheering fans how angry he was that Americans were disrespecting their flag, I sat down.
I sat down in the dirt patch that were the lawn seats. I sat down among beer cans and cigarette butts; I couldn’t believe Moody would take time out of his set to speak about this topic. It wasn’t the time, nor the place.
Or was it?
Just as it is every bit the right of players in the NFL to take a knee during the national anthem, or the team owners to come down and link arms with their players in solidarity, it is the right of this man to speak his peace.
Sitting in the dirt gave me a new perspective.
Kaepernick, who started the conversation, doesn’t have a job anymore. He sacrificed his career and his image, because he felt enough is enough.
America, it’s time to wake up.
All men (and women) are not created equal in this country. What are we going to do to fix it?
Contact Shannon Reardon at firstname.lastname@example.org