Most Americans spent the Memorial Day weekend celebrating the freedom granted by the brave military men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure it.
However, left-wing National Public Radio (NPR) decided to mark the solemn occasion by questioning what it means to be patriotic, based on the NFL’s recent announcement that it will require players to stand for the National Anthem or face fines.
NPR interviewed Howard Bryant, ESPN sportswriter, and author of The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism. Bryant believes African Americans have been targeted for being activists even if they are justified in protesting what players have said are related to police brutality and other injustices.
“I think there was an attitude that everybody’s equal now and there was no reason to be in the street, and there was no reason to continue on,” Bryant said in an interview with the Nation. “And the players had finally started to earn as well.
“So, I don’t think there’s any question that there was a cultural argument amongst African Americans whether there was still a need to stay active,” Bryant said. “I don’t know if we believed that we had to.
“I think what’s funny about that is that this attitude was growing at a time in the 1980s when so much was being taken away,” Bryant said. “There was far more of a conservative crackdown and more emphasis on police power and more emphasis on undoing those victories of the 1960s, and the players still didn’t come around because they were making money.
“They didn’t feel they had to be involved,” Bryant said.
During the preseason in August 2016, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem. He was, at first, alone in his protest, but continued it into the regular season as countless others joined him.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in August 2016. ” “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick is no longer playing in the NFL.
Bryant said in his NPR interview that he blames President Donald Trump for the NFL’s new rule.
“Well I think they’ve taken the position that the NFL has decided to fully engage with this culture war initiated by the president,” Bryant told NPR. “When [President Trump] first attacked the NFL players in September, one of the questions of the book that I was asking was ‘Who gets to be the patriot?’ “
Trump called the protesting players “unpatriotic.”
“The phrase ‘weaponizing patriotism’ has been used frequently in this debate,” NPR reported.
“Bryant says the players ‘do not want their citizenship questioned,’ and that ‘what they’re doing in this protest is the ultimate example of citizenship'”
“It is how those protests are framed, Bryant says, that begin to weaponize patriotism,” NPR reported.
“What we’ve seen in sports over the last couple of years now is to paint the players as unpatriotic,” Bryant told NPR. “Instead of thinking about their reasoning — which is police misconduct and about supporting some of the people who don’t have a lot of power in our country — it’s been directed toward the flag as if the players don’t care about their country when actually, they do.”