Your Move, NFL Players…Your Move, Christians
The Civil War was about slavery.
The Confederate Flag symbolizes a rebellious entity that went to war on behalf of the right to enslave other men. It ought to be banned.
“Heritage not hate,” is a lie.
Robert E. Lee owned slaves, fought and killed on behalf of this collective right. Why would we memorialize him with a statue or any other means?
Systematic racism is a plague in our nation.
Cops brutalize black people, kill black men.
Black lives matter.
Are you angry yet?
You’ve never heard of Peter Norman.
An Australian Sprinter, Norman won the silver at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and stood on the platform as American Sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists in silent protest during the National Anthem. In the 1960’s, the Black Panther movement was as popular with white people as #blacklivesmatter is today.
Peter Norman was an afterthought, merely the “white guy”, standing by as Smith and Carlos protested. He was a bystander. What went largely unnoticed was the small lapel pin he wore, “Olympic Project for Human Rights,” an organization started to combat global racial injustice. Norman was more than a bystander.
“I’ll stand with you,” he told them.
“I expected to see fear in Norman’s eyes, but instead we saw love,” Carlos remembers.
It’s Not Showfriends
It’s a business decision, and that’s okay.
The protests incited the ire of a vast swath of Americana, mainly from the conservative base. And they have exercised their own rights in turning the channel, costing the NFL millions of dollars, though it’s difficult to quantify.
In our public sector, within the bounds of morality and ethics, the dollar rules. Capitalism insists upon it. At the end of the day, the NFL is a business and if they fail to generate revenue, they will not remain in business…and kneeling football players are bad for business.
The NFL finally responded.
“We want people to be respectful of the national anthem,” commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We want people to stand…and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion.”
So the owners unanimously adopted a new policy requiring players to stand during the anthem. The policy gives them the option to remain in the locker room. Punitively, the policy fines teams if a player does not show the appropriate respect for the anthem. This includes any attempt to sit or kneel, as dozens of players have done during the past two seasons to protest racial inequality and police brutality. The teams have the option to fine players who violate the policy.
The NFL felt like they had to do something, and that’s okay.
No one is being forced to stand against their will. The players are free to seek employment elsewhere, the Canadian Football League or Europe or maybe even in something other than sports.
I saw a post which read, “Forced patriotism is really fascism.”
If it were truly forced, then yes. If the American Gestapo were roaming the streets arresting non-patriotic citizens, then yes. This would constitute fascism.
That’s not happening. You may burn a flag, and I want you to be able to burn the flag. I grieve that you feel led to burn the flag, but I respect your right to freely do so. The last I checked you may sit during the national anthem at any sporting event. You may leave your hat on, refuse to put your hand over your heart, whatever. Now, you are betraying a social norm and for that you may get some pushback, but that is normal too. But you won’t get arrested.
So the ball is firmly back in the players court.
They of course may continue to protest, only now, it just may cost them something.
Time will tell if they truly believe in the righteousness of their cause. The true measure of commitment is the price one is willing to pay.
A way to look at these men, a way that a large swath of America views them, is as spoiled millionaires crying about something that’s not even truly an issue.
You’ve heard the counterpoints.
Black people kill way more black people than any white people do, cops included. If men, black or otherwise, would just follow the law, then they wouldn’t have anything to worry about. Young black men commit an overwhelming majority of violent crime, so why should we be surprised if cops handle certain situations with more force? The destruction of the black family is the real cause of black affliction, not the mythical “man” or any other kind of external opposition.
These points contain some elements of truth, but many cling to these point to delegitimize everything these men stand(kneel) for.
Yet I ask, Is legitimacy the most important thing, perceived or otherwise?
Jesus, as always, confronts.
A Pharisee approaches Him and asks, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36)
Jesus responds with,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” (v. 38) and,
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (v. 39)
Jesus tells them to love God and to love their neighbors. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (v. 40) The Law of God can be summarized in these two laws:
Love your neighbor.
Who then is my neighbor? My family, my friends, my co-workers, my actual neighbors?
What about my fellow citizens?
There is disenfranchisement.
As a middle-class, middle-aged white dude, I can never truly comprehend what young black men face, whether wealthy football players or average young men on the street. I can never understand exactly how they feel or what they feel. Yet, I can comprehend that they feel, that what they think matters.
Whether I consider their views legitimate or not becomes irrelevant in the light of Christ. They are upset and no matter the legitimacy of their protest, I must love them and my concern is for them. Christ demands it.
The kingdom, of which I am a member, supersedes this worldly kingdom and all its worldly concerns. Christianity renders social justice ancillary to the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18) Yet, what if social justice were a mechanism to that end, the reconciliation of men with God? What if social justice became a means to plead with men, “be reconciled to God”? (v. 20) What if my stand with them might portray my love for them and ultimately, the love of Christ?
Christ demands my consideration.
Christ requires my compassion.
Christ insists upon my love for them.
They have an issue, a problem and though I do not understand it completely, I acknowledge it. Further, I reject condemnation.
If I could speak with them, I’d like to stand with them, even if I don’t entirely agree with them. If only our fellow citizens would feel the same.
Peter Norman paid a price for his stand.
He was rejected from the 1972 Australian Olympic team though he ran qualifying times for the 200 meters thirteen times and five qualifying times for the 100 meters. His career was effectively over, though he remains one of the fastest Australians of all time. Largely ostracized, he found work difficult to find, his nation squarely against him.
Australia offered him chances to repent. Publicly condemn Smith and Carlos and he would be embraced. He would receive a pardon for his actions and perhaps even be a part of the 2000 Sydney Olympic games.
Norman refused and continued his stand.
He died from a heart attack in 2006.
Six years later, the Australian Parliament issued an official state apology to Norman recognizing his “extraordinary athletic achievements” and acknowledging his bravery in standing in solidarity with Smith and Carlos. They apologized for failing to send him to the 1972 Munich Olympics and recognized “the powerful role that Peter Norman played in furthering racial equality.”
Norman saw two men moved deeply by the wounds of racial injustice. He saw these men as brothers. Peter Norman, a devout Christian, said to them in his stand,
“I’ll stand with you.”
“I love you,” and ultimately,
“Jesus loves you.”
As touching of a gesture as the government apology was, an even more poignant display occurred at his funeral.
Carlos and Smith served as pallbearers.
As Norman stood with them in life, they bore his body to the grave, standing with him in death.
Carlos later spoke of his friend, recognizing his character and strength and most of all, “his willingness to be a sacrificial lamb for justice.” In standing by his fellow men sacrificially, Peter Norman fully embraced them as brothers and displayed the heart of our Lord Jesus.
I can scarcely imagine if our nation were to do the same, embrace our kneeling brothers and resolutely declare with them that, “yes, black lives do matter.”
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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